HospitaCité is a joint project between the Belgian firm VK Architects & Engineers and the French company Michel Rémon & Associés to renovate the Saint-Luc University Clinic in Brussels in order to make it “more human.”
HospitaCité will reconnect the hospital to the university town and use architecture to psychologically favor patient recovery as well as improve the well-being of healthcare staff. It’s a huge 250-million-euro project which should be finished by 2025. We spoke with Stephane Vermeulen and Michel Rémon, the two project managers.
Interview translated from French by Monica Hutchings. Read the full interview on our sister publication MedicalExpo e-magazine.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Can you explain the positive effects of your project on patients?
Stephane Vermeulen: The idea is really to develop salutogenic elements to favor health, that is to say, develop everything human, by making the buildings on a human scale, favoring contact with nature, etc. Before the roof of the operating and clinical support unit was a parking lot. Now it’s going to be a large hanging botanical garden that will connect the old building and the new tower. So patients will have a view not of a parking lot but of hanging gardens, their relationship with the outside environment will be much more pleasant.
The rooms have also been reworked. We made the decision to offer individual rooms almost exclusively. The big difference is that they will be family rooms with a specific section for families and a fold-out bed. So that in the future families can also offer solutions to the cost of care.
Wood and glass are also two elements that will be everywhere in the future hospital. Glass because we really want to open up the hospital to the outside. Whereas wood gives a very human and natural touch which was used a lot less than concrete in the past because of cost and upkeep. But concrete, on a human level, is not the most pleasant material… For the wood, we’ll need to use a durable wood that requires little to no maintenance and that ages well.
Urban and Architectural Issues at Stake
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What is the project’s main innovation?
Michel Rémon: The specificity of the project is that there are real urban and architectural issues at stake. In French hospitals, the architectural aspect isn’t often considered. Hospitals remain large functional machines whose purpose is to heal patients. In this case, we had a condition from the very start, and that’s the real innovation, to make the Saint-Luc University Clinic more human.
This hospital was built in the 70s as a big block in the middle of the countryside. There’s a huge operating and clinical support unit on four levels with an inpatient unit stuck like a bar on top, on the side. All of it was built in a pretty harsh way with lots of concrete.
At the same time in 1968 just next door the student town with the university and university buildings, laboratory etc. was built. The architect chosen for this at the time was Lucien Kroll, a proponent of participatory architecture. He built the campus working with the students over the course of very long design workshops. The whole project has become a sort of model today, a unique example of this type of architecture, which is in the process of being designated a Belgian heritage site.
Read the full interview on our sister publication MedicalExpo e-magazine.