The Urban Hospice
NORD Architects worked closely with the Deaconess Foundation community to develop a design that would carve out a peaceful setting within the densely populated Frederiksberg area of Copenhagen.
Af Benjamin Wells
The irregular site conditions and the proximity of neighboring buildings have influenced the overall form, which mediates this context by rising to meet streets and buildings while recessing to provide privacy and introversion elsewhere. Within these parameters, the Urban Hospice integrates spaces of both seclusion and openness into the surrounding urban condition.
The Urban Hospice is a subtle and innovative take on how a modern hospice can be placed in an urban fabric in a way that takes both users and neighbors into account. To achieve this, we have created a building with an inclusive and welcoming expression that holds opportunity for both community and privacy at the same time.
— Morten Rask Gregersen, partner at NORD Architects
Charles Jencks, the architectural historian and theorist behind Maggie’s Centres for cancer care, suggests that design can provide a kind of ‘architectural placebo effect’, acting as a ‘secondary therapy’. This notion that architecture can have a therapeutic effect on patients has been a central aim for NORD’s Urban Hospice project, which is crafted to feel welcoming and homely.
The building’s golden metal cladding and rectilinear external form create a strong visual presence, but this is softened by timber detailing and curved niches enclosing small, outward-looking terraces. The building’s arrangement merges programmatic elements, organizing them around a sheltered inner courtyard; in doing so it negates the need for long patient corridors. Rounded corners create a natural flow through the building, further distancing the architecture from traditional hospice design and the negativity too often associated with it.
The Urban Hospice aims to create a positive and comforting spatial atmosphere for patients, relatives, and staff, providing the required operational facilities and accommodation for 16 patients while integrating generous communal spaces and outdoor areas as well as moments of privacy and seclusion. NORD suggests that these spaces to think, chat and relax, combined with functional spatial requirements, create “a good place to die”.
NORD Architects designed the building in close cooperation with the client and users, through a collaborative process that directly informed the final project. Mia Baarup Tofte, the project manager, suggests that this “gives users a special allegiance to the finished building”, and that a dialogue-based process ensures that “the design of the house easily falls into place in a meaningful way.”
It has been an amazing journey, where we, together with the client and their employees, have developed a unique place for the final journey. Based on architecture’s best tools and the client’s expertise, we have created a house where one can part with life in a safe environment.
— Mia Baarup Tofte, project manager at NORD Architects
NORD Architects’ Urban Hospice successfully responds to its urban context, and in doing so crafts a tranquil refuge for palliative patients. The project underlines the need for a thoughtful and sensitive design that can succeed in being both architecturally aspirational and of transformative value to its users.