In Search of Respite

photography__russell beard; words__graeme massie | edinburgh__uk

Graeme Massie Architects’ Respite Pavilion is an intriguing new structure which sits in the grounds of the Woodland View Community Hospital in Irvine, on Scotland’s Ayrshire coast. Woodland View is an acute mental health facility and community hospital, commissioned by NHS Scotland, which brings together a full range of outpatient and inpatient facilities.

The Respite Pavilion was commissioned as part of the ‘Points of View’ Arts Strategy which aims to reconnect patients, staff and visitors to the wider Ayrshire landscape. Developed by Donald Urquhart and Will Levi-Marshall, the arts strategy includes work across a range of creative disciplines including fine art, photography, film and architecture.

Various studies, research papers, think tanks and academics have all concluded that access to outdoor environments, and the encouragement of an active lifestyle, play an important role in relation to mental illness and well-being. Therefore it came as no surprise when the brief presented to Graeme Massie Architects was clear and direct, yet also incredibly open simply to create a sheltered place to sit in the open landscape surrounding the hospital.

The Respite Pavilion responded to these themes by providing an important place of outdoor relaxation; encouraging patients, staff and relatives to escape the wards and waiting rooms of the hospital for the open landscape of the wider campus. This allowed them to connect with their natural environment and nurtured a sense of tranquility and calm.

The design is focussed around three rectangular planes, each with a circular aperture, which intersect to form a pavilion arranged around a stand of birch trees. The pavilion frames views and creates a more hospitable outdoor micro-climate, sheltered from the wind yet open to the sun and sky. Seating is loosely dispersed, easily accommodating both groups and individuals.

The construction explores how the earth and geology of an area can help create a meaningful sense of place, rooting it in a wider landscape context. A ground plane defines the extent of the intervention and is formed from red-toned self-binding sands and gravels. Upon this, the structure is formed from board marked concrete, with iron-oxide pigmentation to create an earthly affinity with the geology of the wider Ayrshire region.

The resultant form is deliberately ambiguous, with echoes of an architectural ruin, a walled garden or even an open-air chapel. This uncertainty allows users to bring their own interpretation and meaning to the pavilion, stirring memories of places outwith the constraints of the hospital environment and connecting them to the familiar landscapes of their memories.

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