The “Leaf Room” at Ninewells, Dundee, was officially opened by Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, on 11 November 2016. The building, designed by Jonathan Reeve of The Voigt Partnership, Arbroath, for the use of patients, staff and visitors to Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, sits beautifully in its landscape setting at the edge of an area of mature woodland just to the south of the hospital. The Voigt Partnership was one of three out of ten practices shortlisted to develop detailed proposals for this new community facility in an Architectural Competition held in 2015. The competition brief, drawn up by NHS Tayside, Forestry Commission Scotland and Ninewells Community Garden, asked participants to design a ‘garden room’ within the established community garden at the hospital which would help provide a safe and accessible environment for gardening and other activities.
The solution put forward in the winning design was to create a rectangular, timber structure (4m x 6m approximately) clad in Scottish Larch with Douglas Fir columns supporting a dramatic, oval leaf-shaped roof. The roof has the appearance of a folded leaf, which is tilted at one end, a device used by the architect to assist in the collection of grey water for recycling purposes in the garden. The roof overhangs the main activity space which can be used for various purposes ranging from talks and concerts to children’s sessions and quiet contemplation.
Ensuring sustainability was at the heart of the design process. There are no mains service connections or electricity supply but heating is supplied by a wood-burning stove. As well as rainwater harvesting, the building has large, glass doors at the south west end to maximise natural sunlight and warmth. These doors can be folded back when the weather permits, connecting the inside area seamlessly to outside decking and the environment beyond in a way often advocated in modern homes. A ramp provides barrier-free access into the garden below.
Turning the winning design into the successful building it is today has been the work of many. The architect liaised closely with representatives of Ninewells Community Garden to hone his ideas and adapt solutions to the needs of the group. Core finance for the project came from the Forestry Commission Scotland and the Community Innovation Fund with further funds from charitable trusts (Leng Charitable Trust, Welsh Family Trust, Harold Merton Adams Trust) and funding for on-going equipment and activities being donated by local businesses, the Alexander Moncur Trust and raised by volunteers.
The Leaf Room is a small, yet important building. Perhaps dwarfed by its nearest neighbours, Ninewells Hospital and the Maggie’s Centre designed by Frank Gehry, the Leaf Room, is connected to them through a design which respects both the geographical setting and the needs of its users.
A 3D animation of the project can be access below:
Supporting StatementEstablished in 1973, Dundee Civic Trust aims to encourage the highest design standards in new buildings and regeneration projects and to stimulate the public’s interest in the city’s urban heritage. As an example of quality design, we are delighted to nominate the ‘Leaf Room’, Ninewells Community Garden, for a Scottish Civic Trust My Place Award.
At the opening, Shona Robison said,
“This is a wonderful space at the heart of Ninewells that truly makes the most of the hospital’s natural surroundings. I know that patients and visitors will get a lot of benefit from the Leaf Room for years to come and I want to thank all the charities and organisations who have helped to make this fantastic project a reality.”
Kevin Lafferty, Access, Health and Recreational Advisor, Forestry Commission Scotland said,
“The ‘Greening the NHS Estate’ programme at Ninewells is encouraging staff, patients, visitors and local people to make greater use of the hospital’s existing woodland for improving health and wellbeing. This is part of a wider collaboration between the health and environment sectors to promote green exercise and support clinicians to take their healing and recovery programmes outdoors.”
To have a real impact, a building needs to make connections. In our view the Leaf Room achieves this in a number of ways.
• The building itself is innovative and distinctive. Its most prominent feature, the unusual, folded leaf-shaped roof, reflects the building’s position at the edge of a valued, historic arboretum and helps to connect it to the community garden. This connection is reinforced through the use of Natural Scottish Timber in the building’s construction, helping it to fit into its landscape setting.
• Care has been taken to ensure that footpaths link the Leaf Room to the main hospital building to the north providing easy access for staff and patients. An important visual connection is made between the building and Maggie’s Centre to the west.
• The value of the natural environment to maintaining our physical health and wellbeing is increasingly being recognised, a fact that was key to the original decision to establish Ninewells Community Garden in 2010. The new building adds a new dimension to the garden, encouraging more visitors and stimulating greater outdoor activity.
• While supported and funded by major public-sector bodies, the Leaf Room is essentially a community project with the needs of patients, staff and volunteers central to both the development of the design and its implementation. The building is helping to create a bridge between these very different groups and users.
• Since its opening in 2016, the Leaf Room has been the venue for a range of activities including: Ladybird Kids Club events; a Quiz Night to raise funds for the garden; Citizen Science activities; a whistle making workshop; volunteer days; and a Christmas wreath and craft sale. In September 2017, the Leaf Room was opened to the public as part of the Dundee Doors Open Days weekend.
Dundee Civic Trust commends the Leaf Room as a worthy recipient of a ‘My Place Award’.