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Veiled Sophistication in Health Care Design: The New Sulaibikhat Clinic, Kuwait

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on 26 days ago

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The design of hospitals or health care facilities is dealt with primarily as a technical poser in most endeavours by architects worldwide. Creativity in these usually gets reserved for the treatment, material and massing of the façade, or for the deployment of ingenuity in getting natural light, ventilation and views inside the building On initial analysis, the New Sulaibikhat Clinic in Kuwait designed by international (Kuwait and Madrid based) firm AGi architects is also about these very parameters. But, the strikingly beautiful articulation it finds as well as the innovative arrangement of the layout set it apart as worthy of a detailed examination.

Executed largely from the resources donated by Mr Ali Muhammad T. Al-Ghanim, an influential European educated Gulf-based industrialist, the New Sulaibikhat Clinic is equipped to dispense health care on par with the best in the world.   The multi-departmental clinic building occupies the entire site area within its solid box-like façade, with a built area of 6500 sq. m distributed on two floors of around 4 m height each. This horizontally dispensed cuboidal built form consolidates itself on the entire rectangular site.

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But, this solid façade is punctuated by delicately perforated screen panels which occupy stretches at intervals around the exterior face. Appearing as boxes offset from the surface, the screens are made from anodised metallic plates fitted on metallic frames. Painted in a gold hue and bearing perforations in delicate geometrical patterns, these screens succeed in dressing the structure in an elegant aura, delicately veiling yet securely fortifying the facility. This arrangement of the façade resolves the two primary concerns of privacy and security that were listed in the brief.

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On the inside, these latticed panels are attached to open courtyards that wind their way towards the interiors. Being carved out of the inside of the layout, these courtyards become the windows of the building that bring in natural light, air and views. Most of the clinic’s consulting areas of various departments being located along these courtyards keep them naturally lit and ventilated as well. The sun filtering through the perforated screens casts beautiful patterns on the flanking walls, creating an elegant aesthetic in the clinical surrounds.

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Thus avoiding the standard hospital arrangement of long corridors lined on either side with rooms and facilities, the layout of the New Sulaibikhat Clinic already sets itself apart. While analysing the design, it is to be noted that the multi-departmental facilities offered at this clinic make for a very dense occupation of the available space. Yet, on entering the clinic one is greeted by a vast and spacious area which is neatly organised, amply ventilated and well lit up. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

Even as the all-white interior with a speckled dewy ceiling texture sets a comfortable, intimate tone, the large suspended disc lights lend it a cosmic dimension. A huge wall of the reception lobby is adorned with a colourful ceramic tile mosaic which is actually the display of colour codes for various departments. Each of these colours can be followed into the clinic’s interiors as it helps in finding the way to the particular department one wishes to visit even without knowing the local language in which the signage may be rendered. That the colours add cheer to what would otherwise be a cold and sterile environment is only a bonus. 

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

Thereby, the clinic’s layout reveals the arrangement of various courtyards and departments like the pieces of a jigsaw that fit in perfectly together to create the final picture of climatic, aesthetic and functional efficiency. Whereas, by turning the idea of deriving sunlight, ventilation and views from the exterior façade on its head, the same layout achieves the twin objectives of security against possible vandalism and a provision of basic privacy. The façade, on the other hand, with a contemporary metaphor for the mashrabiya punctuating a solid face achieves a finely calibrated balance between delicacy and stability. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

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