The facilities of the 1964 Helsinki Children’s Hospital, which specialises in the treatment of seriously ill babies, had become cramped and old-fashioned. When the hospital was first built, about 90 paediatric patients were treated annually - but now the number has risen to 700. Added to this, water penetration and other damage demanded renovations, modernisation and expansion.
The old hospital has five separate wings or ‘fingers’ radiating out from a long, curved hub building all sharing the same centralized layout. The building typifies the functional style found in many architecturally significant hospitals dating from that period. There is a clear desire to preserve them in their original architectural form, although they do not always fulfil modern requirements. With new extensions to the Helsinki hospital, successfully combining the old and the new into compatible entities, while meeting all the restrictions placed by the town plan, posed a real challenge.
What further complicated this project is the fact that the hospital is protected by the National Board of Antiquities and Historical Monuments. In addition, the building inspection authorities, as well as conservation specialists, set out a requirement for a thoroughly modern ap-pearance, distinctly different from the old building and the extension was designed to be a separate entity. The two new pavilions were built in the courtyard spaces defined by the ‘finger’ wings of the original building and mainly accommodate the new surgical wards and intensive care units.
Copper – the key material
Copper was chosen as the key material, visually linking the old and the new - as the original hospital’s roof material is copper with a green patina. Therefore, pre-patinated copper was selected as the exterior wall material for the new buildings. Bespoke copper slats were specially designed for the Children’s Hospital and the use of three different size slats gives the façades a distinctive and lively surface. They are attached diagonally to the bottom runs to form a latticed surface. The objective was to create a harmonious and uniform façade, including covering over air grilles and smoke removal equipment, hidden behind the copper slats.
At roof level, the countless ventilation ducts are concealed within large copper pipes. In addition to the exterior walls and the roof, copper was also used on the sleeves covering ventilation pipes, entrance doors and other exterior details. The copper was delivered to a fabricator in rolls and processed into the slats and other elements. Although work on site was subject to special arrangements to minimise disturbance of the hospital operations, the project progressed particularly well due to close cooperation with the hospital staff. The project remained within schedule and the hospital personnel are delighted with their new facilities.
Article about this building was published in 30/2011 issue of Copper Architecture Forum magazine.