Thursday, 2 June 2011

Lambeth Community Care Centre Open Day

On Saturday 21st May a group from the office went to the Lambeth Community Care Centre annual garden open day, to see the building in action and to enjoy some tea and cake. It was great to see how this innovative centre has been used and the garden has matured, over 25 years on from when it was first opened.

Robin Nicholson, senior partner at Cullinans and the project architect of the Care Centre, took us on a tour of the building and its extensive gardens, pointing out his mature fig tree, laden with fruit, and stories behind many of the plants. The local community got a warm welcome from staff and volunteers and from the gardener Millie who was there encouraging everyone to buy plants to help fund the next year’s work in the garden.

For the opening by Charles and Diana on a cold winter afternoon in 1985, Ted took the newly wed Di around the ground floor to meet the patients and those involved in making the Centre happen. Meanwhile Robin introduced Charles to the design and construction teams in the upper conservatory including the foremen plumber and electrician, while their bosses were out in the rather chilly garden.  All the guests were invited to bring bulbs to plant in the garden.

The wonderful first senior nurse Sheila Woodward, now retired but devoted to the Centre, showed us around the 1st floor ward areas, pointing out various design features that made an impact in the lives of the patients. For example, Sheila told us how the clerestory windows bathed the wards in the dawn light, and helped patients connect with passing of time each day. Apparently dawn is one of the most common times for people to pass away, at the most peaceful time of the day.

The wards look out over the verdant garden, allowing patients to enjoy the greenery and wildlife from their beds. A terrace runs along the ward where patients can sit and double doors enable beds to be wheeled out onto the terrace from the wards if a patient wants to be outside.

Sheila had had the unenviable task of taking over the building from a passionately determined group of doctors, therapists, administrators and architects who had lived and breathed the design for 5 years and it had taken the founders 5 years before that to get the money.  The plan had been to make a model place where patients would be looked after by the Centre’s nurses and therapists and visited by their GP as though they were in their own home.  The story of the early years is beautifully recorded by Gillian Wilce in ‘A Place Like Home’.

After huge initial success, Sheila moved on and inevitably there were some changes but the Tomlinson report in 1992 thrust the Lambeth CCC right back on the agenda as a model for the future of Community healthcare in London.

The centre is based around an innovative approach to patient care, where patients have an active role in their own care and the running of the centre. It was very interesting to see these principles in practice, innovative in its time and still very much relevant to current healthcare projects such as our current Maggie’s Cancer care centre project in Newcastle, where visitors are encouraged to feel ownership of the building and enabled to help themselves to cups of tea and participate in the gardening.

North East Maggie's Cancer Caring Centre

A special issue of the Architects Journal was devoted to the building 16th Oct 1985.

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