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Hospitecture: A hospital like no other

The small city of Eisenberg in Thuringia is home to Germany’s largest orthopaedic centre. Matteo Thun and HDR Architekten have built a new stationary ward for the local Waldkliniken hospital where they have effectively demonstrated that criteria such as innovative, sustainable, design-oriented and patient-friendly are by no means mutually exclusive.

The Waldkliniken Eisenberg (WKE), an independent municipal hospital, has expanded its orthopaedic centre by a 5-storey stationary ward (plus basement and technical area on the roof). The new building, which was planned by Milan architect and designer Matteo Thun in collaboration with the globally active HDR Architekten, opened just before the second coronavirus-driven lockdown hit Germany on 31 October 2020.

Green health

For Matteo Thun, who has already realised several luxury hotels around the world, this was his first hospital project. He was supported by HDR Architekten, who in contrast know all about hospital buildings. To create the best possible spaces and pathways for users, planning was carried out with close cooperation between architects and hospital staff.

The hospital itself stands amid the green, while the building costs stayed well within the black at 62.5 million euros. The wooden façades symbolise the county’s forest-covered countryside and the round shape the county itself, the source of the hospital’s funding.

The stylistic elements used by architect Matteo Thun in the interior of the ward block and the oak trees that were recently planted also underscore the close relationship with nature in the region. Upon entering the building, one looks directly into a world of green, which are trees planted in an inner courtyard – the hospital’s oasis.

The concept of Hospitecture

The concept on which the hospital’s ward block is based can be summed up in one word: “hospitality”. It captures the essence of this idea by melding the Greek word for guest, “hospis”, and the English word “hospital.” The underlying vision was to build a hospital that treats its patients as guests. Therefore, it should provide both first-class medical care and the highest levels of living quality.

This was one of the concerns of the hospital managing director of the Waldkliniken, David-Ruben Thies, who believes that the healing process depends not only on medical expertise, but also on the right environment, where patients can feel like guests.

Inspired by this idea, the architect and designer Matteo Thun teamed up with David-Ruben to develop a special “hospitecture” that focuses on both the physical and mental well-being of people. It supports the patients – the guests – throughout the healing process so that they can resume their normal lives just as fast as the art of medicine will allow them to.

Furthermore, David-Ruben asserts that the new building is “something unique in the history of hospitals in Germany” because the costs per square metre do not surpass those of a “conventional hospital building of the same size.”

Healing architecture

“Premium Hospitality in Nature” is our guiding principle. It combines hospitality with medical excellence in a healing environment.

“An exterior façade made of glass and wood gives our patients a free view into the surrounding forest, which helps them in their recovery. In the interior, rooms for different functions – retreat and recovery – complement each other,” comments Matteo.

A sustainable circle

The round building has an exterior façade featuring horizontal wooden slatting and vertical pilaster strips of laminated timber. The larch wood of the exterior façade can be experienced via the large window openings in the rooms and on the verandas. Part of the concrete construction uses concrete-core activation to regulate the temperature in the rooms. An ice-accumulating system provides a basic temperature for heating and cooling.

New approach

Normal standards were looked at anew. Among other things, the patient rooms are of much higher quality and are rated above the average standard for hospitals in Germany.

These are some of the unique features of the rooms:
• Through the design and arrangement of the beds, the bathroom and the conservatory, it is possible to have a meeting place close to the bed.
• Most of the rooms have two beds: in each one, the design of the bathroom and solarium, plus the offset arrangement of the beds, ensure possibilities for privacy.
• The functional areas, retreats and recreation rooms are modern and welcoming; they have been designed with high standards in terms of design and function.
• With its boarding areas and a unit-by-unit care concept, the new structure deliberately blurs the barriers between patients, employees and guests.

The result is a building with a great degree of comfort which has no doubt set a new standard for the future of hospital care.

• The building cost about €68 million.
• 100% of eligible costs were covered by the Free State of Thuringia. This currently amounts to about €52 million.
• The facility has 16 500 m² of walkable area, roughly the size of 2.3 soccer fields.
• The cubage, or cubic content, totals 6 500 cubic metres.
• The diameter of the round building is 67.4 metres
• The building has 6 floors with 752 rooms, a basement and five stories with a technology centre on the top floor.
• 1000 doors are used in the ward along with 3,493 luminaires and 105 outdoor lights.
• 1500 oak leaves, the logo of the Waldkliniken, have been scattered around the building along with 31 wooden ladders that symbolise Saale-Holzland County.
• The building has 2 fireplaces.
• 52 verandas have been built around the building. The arrangement totals 360 degrees.

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