In July 2014 the new Kingfisher Court, a building at the forefront of developments in mental health care design and practice, opened its doors to the first patients. As part of the “recovery model” of care, these patients were deeply involved in the design: hundreds of hours of consultations with different task groups were undertaken before finalising the innovative and ground-breaking design. Trust chief executive Tom Cahill said: “This is an excellent opportunity to bring together best practice and produce a cutting-edge facility that will deliver high quality care and set the benchmark for similar projects. “We don’t want this to be called a hospital, we want to use this facility to dispel myths and put care for people with mental illness on the map in a positive way.”
This contour-hugging building, nestled on a sloping site in the Hertfordshire green belt, provides 8000m² of accommodation, including five adult wards, therapy and office spaces which are organised in two ranges sitting at different heights on the site and connected by a dynamically-shaped link. The building is a low-lying landscape element, designed to be seen from and through the landscape. The use of organic shapes and natural materials reduces the overall scale of the development and allows the building to merge with its natural surroundings. Façades are clad in timber boarding and timber shingles which wrap seamlessly onto the mono pitched roofs; these are designed to create a gently-moving roofscape, reminiscent of the undulation of the hill itself.
As in a hill town, the building is not perceived all at once but is discovered step by step. Once through the copper clad access portal, like a village, it has its highways and byways, meeting places, sitting places and village green.