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The Royal Min - Therapy Centre

Part 1 Project 2008
Bethan Kay
University of Bath, UK

Since its foundation Bath has been a centre for healing and wellbeing centred around the hot springs, however in recent years we have lost this fundamental connection to Bath’s raison d’être. Up until 1976, when funds were withdrawn, people regularly bathed in the hot baths - 70% of these bathers were funded by the NHS on prescriptions. Now with the introduction of the new thermae Spa for leisure bathing the time has come for Bath to once again reconnect to its routes.

The new therapy centre for the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Disease, or as it affectionately known ‘the Royal Min’, acts as an extension to the existing facility within its tight city centre site. The new centre improves upon and consolidates existing therapy facilities and reintroduces the natural hot spring water, using it for medicinal purposes for the first time in over thirty years.

The project challenges the preconceptions about contemporary hospital environments and reflects on a time when hospitals were key buildings of civic pride in the city. The building seeks to encapsulate this through a design of substance and timelessness that engages with the public and creates a sanctuary of healing within the chaos of the city.

Bethan Kay

The final undergraduate project at Bath runs for a full semester and affords each student the opportunity to develop their own project brief, consistent with the theme for the Studio. Every student is also responsible for identifying their own site, which must meet certain given criteria, and which lies within a given locale.

The theme for this year’s studio dealt with the development of the City of Bath within its existing boundaries. The emphasis was therefore on creating greater density within an existing urban boundary and an historic building environment. Additional themes, common to all final year projects, were the exploration of materiality and integration of sustainability within the final design.

Bethan identified Bath’s Mineral Water Hospital as her client for the project. Although part of the NHS, the specialist “Min” hospital has a long history within the City, making use of Bath’s natural spa waters. Her project successfully resolved the organisation of the existing Georgian building and the various problematic urban conditions bounding her site.

Bethan’s project combined an acute sensitivity to the individual patient experience and their environment with the ambition to heal part of the city’s damaged urban fabric. Her scheme embraces the idea of urban landscape through the building itself and through the careful and considered use of soft landscaping as a counterpoint to, and as an integral part of, the new building.

Bethan fully engaged with the complex relationship between well-being and environment. The project was an ideal vehicle to pursue and embody her response to the challenge of creating an architecture capable of fostering psychological and physical recovery.

The project created a rich series of internal and external spaces, the character of which was fully explored and controlled by the student as part of her design process. These spatial studies were carried out together with detailed investigations of material. Bethan resolved all these elements within her detailed design. Throughout the project she demonstrated a sophisticated ability to manipulate materials and light with the technical creativity and knowledge which enabled her to realise her ambitions.

Mr Alex Wright
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