Carlanda Hospital plans to build 7,000 square metres of additional space, to enable it to expand its services, and also to provide accommodation suitable for modern medical technology. Unfortunately, it is not a good scheme and will practically destroy a valuable local amenity. A better solution is needed.
Existing building and park
The present hospital is a building of distinction and historic interest in an attractive landscape setting with mature trees. The park and building are important both for the immediate neighbourhood and in the wider context of the city. The hospital building itself, with its distinctive outline, is a conspicuous landmark visible from a distance, for example when travelling northwards from Mölndal. The park and hospital provides a fitting climax to the formal classical red-brick buildings on the two sides of Eklandagatan, with the group of trees at the north end of the park being visible from Korsvägen.
The park is both an important local amenity and part of the linked series of green spaces that extend all the way across the city centre, which make it possible to walk long distances in an environment dominated by trees. These green spaces also have an important function in helping to keep the oxygen balance and the air cleaner, in an area with high pollution and particle load. It is important to note also that areas immediately adjacent have been reserved for construction shafts for Västlänken which will bring thousands of lorries to the area, further adding to the area’s pollution levels.
What is wrong with the proposal?
The proposed building will destroy the open ambience of the park and at the same time largely hide the existing 1927 building, in the National Romantic style. Apart from the use of brick cladding, the bulk, form and elevational treatment of the building appear to bear little relationship to the site and the neighbouring buildings, including the original hospital and the residential buildings surrounding the park. The new building could, in fact, have been designed to be free-standing on a green-field site anywhere. The design is not a response to the specific character of the site and its neighbours. It is uninspiring in the extreme.
The visual impact cannot be reliably judged in the absence of walk-through videos which should have been provided at this stage. However, from drawing so far released, it can be seen that the building so close to the path through the park and it will dominate the view as seen by pedestrians walking in both directions. The perspectives are misleading, in that they show the building half-hidden behind trees which are in poor condition and likely not to survive for much longer, if indeed, they outlast the the building process. The same applies to some of the other trees, in particular the magnificent mature copper beech towards the south end of site.
The best solution for the park would be for no further construction to take place on it. Taken together with proposed university developments in Näckrosdamm park, the cumulative effect is to damage two of the links in the network of green spaces that cross the city centre. Possible solutions involving no further development include
- Construction of the hospital extension on another site eg brown field land to the east side of Mölndalväg.
- Relocation of the hospital to a new building on another site. The existing building might then be re-used as a hotel or for university purposes.
- Use as a hotel, in a scheme similar to the Clarion group’s Posthuset development, which would mean that members of the public would continue to have access.
One option would be to complete the original proposed scheme for the hospital, ie with the same plan and mass, but in a contemporary idiom which was a paraphrase of the original architectural style. A precedent here is the scheme for the extension of Covent Garden by Jeremy Dixon of Building Design Partnership.
Finally, there is the option for amending the design of the current proposal. Alternatives to the flat roof-line should be offered, either a pitched form or curved forms. A curved plan, similar to Pedagogen might fit the site better. The use of matching materials has not resulted in a building that matches or even fits the context. The converse seems to be case. A clear or mirror class facade would almost certainly have less of an obtrusive visual impact that the brick facade shown in the drawings. Alternative elevational treatments should be presented.
The proposal is for a dull and uninspiring building which would damage both a historical environment and a space which forms part of the city’s network of green walk-ways. Other options should be considered, including
- relocation of the hospital to a new site, with reuse of the existing building
- construction of the extension on a separate site
- an alternative scheme which completed the original proposal for the hospital, but in a modern idiom which as a paraphrase of the 1927 design
- amendments to the current proposal to lighten its visual impact
Refurbishment of the park should also be an integral part of any scheme.
- Some of the existing trees are in poor condition and plans need to be made for their replacement to allow for a succession of healthy trees in the future.
- The parking and waste recyling area at the north end of the park is unsightly and needs to be redesigned.
- The car parking area at the south end needs to be redesigned.
- Walkways need to be constructed in accordance with the routes that people actually take, including the path to the bus stop in Eklandagatan and through the south-end car park.
- The wire mesh boundary fence should be replaced by a fence of better quality.