The 85 bed Midpark Mental Health Hospital in Dumfries opened its doors in early 2012; one of the first projects to be completed through Frameworks Scotland. The client team feel that the partnership approach within Frameworks Scotland was key to developing a shared vision and subsequent adoption of the completed development by staff. The team’s concept of ‘Learning to Live’ centres on providing patients with a homely environment that helps them develop the skills needed to return to independent living. Significant time was invested throughout the design process to share ideas and discuss concerns, targeting and testing the potential issues with the design. Applying the collective knowledge and experience of staff, patients groups, project team and design team to resolve these issues early on was considered fundamental; not only in evolving the design but also in that it gave ownership to the people who would eventually use the building. Design Manager, Stephen Howie commented:
“…I think a huge benefit in how the building was received was that staff had felt engaged with the design process… by the time they were moving in they felt familiar with the building and it was theirs.”
One of the key challenges for the project team was how to deal with the 14 metre drop across the site. The brief called for accommodation of approximately a third of the site area. A single story response would have meant significant expense in ground works and raising the building to become very prominent when viewed from a Conservation Area to the west, potentially causing problems in planning. The architect’s response of stepping the development over three levels cleverly creates single-storey accommodation with landscaped gardens for each ward and reduces the visual impact of the facility by breaking up the form into terraces.
The stepped approach provides more natural light and green landscape views to the south-east than would be possible with all wards on one level. Wards to the rear of the site can see over the top of the neighbouring ward, opening long vistas. The layout also means that both on the approach and within any one ward, you are not aware of much of the rest of the facility; making it feel less institutional and more domestic in scale.