|Hospitals are for
healing. This building in the city of Groningen radiates medical
competence. White, modern, functional, all sleeves rolled up to care
and to cure. Architecture can express that.
Landscaping should support it.
The medical staff believed strongly that nature can assist healing. National park Dwingelderveld in the east of the Netherlands served as a reference and inspiration.
There is archeological evidence that this area has been inhabited for more than 14,000 years. Change has been slow, creating a landscape where vegetation, animals and mankind are in balance. Just being there, with a wandering mind and all senses on alert, helps one to feel and think better. An ideal environment to add to a hospital and express on the outside what happens within.
The first idea was to recreate marshy fens, shallow water overgrown with rush and reeds. Streaks of firs could grow on slightly higher ridges. This turned out to be impractical. Windows have to be washed and the cost of creating water was prohibitive. Instead of water came mown lawns interspersed with meadow grass and wild flowers. Acacia trees instead of firs. Same design, but with totally different elements.
Enclosed on two sides this space suggests a garden. Here nature provides a wall-to-wall carpet of lawns, interspersed with wild grass and flowers.
Trees add a third dimension in between buildings. Different kinds of soil are brought in to determine what grows where.
There is thick, fertile clay to support luscious plants. An arid and sandy mix produces dry vegetation elsewhere.
Lawns are the binding element.
Finding the main entrance is simplified by irregular rows of acacia trees along the approaching asphalt paths. Often frowned upon, asphalt is definitely a natural product and besides, very comfortable for assisted walking. The trees not only give direction, but also provide shelter and an agreeable dispersal of light and delicate shadows on the white walls of the hospital.
A national park with a long history inspired a contemporary environment. Nature and architecture are in harmony with medical expertise and assistance to complete the healing process.
Burger Gunstra Architecten
Francien van Kempen
Michael van Gessel