atelier oï created a new glazed extension that opens up the building to the adjacent park and views of the countryside. A sky dome has also been installed in the ceiling just above the main lobby to bring in more natural daylight
Hospital decor is known for attempting a soothing effect with its pastel colours on thick plaster walls; however, the selection of shade is everything and the wrong tint can practically induce nausea. (Institutional mint, anyone? How about Pepto-Bismol pink?) There's a better way, and the Dale Hospital, a private surgical and maternity clinic located at the heart of the historic city of Freiburg, Switzerland, is a great example of how warm and elegant a healthcare facility can be. Founded in 1917 and run by a private foundation, its growing success has lead to the addition of several modern buildings have been added to the original 19th century building with its traditional wide sloping roofs.
In 2009, the foundation recognised that it was time to modernize the hospital’s main reception area. Interior design firm atelier oï was commissioned to remodel the entire layout of the reception area and include both a reception desk and a cafeteria to serve the patients and visitors coming in from the adjacent buildings.
A central island separates the reception desk from the seating area for the cafeteria. Here, atelier oï have designed an open partition using tall wooden boards veneered in American walnut that stand on their top end ridges and run vertically the full height of the hallway into the ceiling. Randomly spaced, like tall trees, the lower section of the boards form the supporting structure of the benches on either side. These wooden components also play with perspective: depending on the viewer’s position they can be perceived as a flat surface or as a ridge line. Vertical glass side panels bookend the structure and offer privacy.
American walnut features across the entire length of the reception desk counter. The top panel displays the grain horizontally whilst the lower panel, made of 30mm strips separated by fine 5mm gaps, create a vertical rhythm. A strip light hidden below the counter highlights the stripped panelling and the natural colour variations of walnut transitioning from creamy white to dark chocolate. The thick walls that frame the reception desk wall have also been panelled in American walnut to create a mass effect. The vertically stripped wood panelling is repeated for the cupboard doors above and behind the reception desk to create visual depth and continuity.
Another wall was removed so that the cafeteria’s kitchen gives onto the seating area. The finely stripped walnut paneling of the reception desk has been specified for the external face of the kitchen counter, with discreetly lit shelves built in to display food products. Again the thick walls that frame the kitchen area have also been panelled in American walnut to create a mass effect. The elegant Monza chairs and armchairs (designed by Konstantin Grcic) are made of ash with a walnut stain finish to match with the walnut paneling and white backrests in polypropylene. This complementary combination completes the chic, modern atmosphere of the hospital’s main lobby.
These opaque glass side panels are stained mustard yellow to protect patients sitting in the cafeteria from being viewed by passersby. White gypsum ceilings and a pastel beige floor tiling blend in to the neutral colour scheme selected by atelier oï.
This project demonstrates how putting some (well-informed) thought into the feel and mood of a space can completely alter a person's experience in the environment. In this case, the partitioned open plan, American walnut details and neutral colour scheme take the clinical feel of the original interior away and instead offer a warm and calming atmosphere for the patients, their visitors, and the clinic's staff. (With fabulous chairs to boot.)