IN: Inspiration

Concrete healthcare

Architects combine colour and concrete in the construction of the new Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.


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The newly built Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg features brick facades, concrete frames and large windows that allow patients to take in views of the landscape. The building’s design is the brainchild of London-based architecture firms Sheppard Robson and John Cooper Architecture, who comprise a team of experienced healthcare architects and planners who provide expertise in the design of hospital, research and academic buildings. The team was later joined by local architecture office GAPP, which oversaw the development of the facade and public spaces, and site architect Ruben Reddy.

The paediatric facility has eight theatres and 200 beds. Facilities for surgery are also included and the hospital is able to support paediatric research and training.

“A key element of the brief was to construct a hospital that provides high-quality child healthcare in a natural healing environment,” said Sheppard Robson.

“This focus on connecting to nature would go on to shape the design of the project and be a starting point to creating a welcoming, safe environment for both children and parents.

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“By breaking down the mass of the building into six elements, the design has a domestic, human scale that is reassuring and familiar to children,” added the studio.

Internal courtyards between the wings enable additional contact with the outdoors, ensuring that natural light reaches the treatment areas. The wards are positioned on the second floor to maximise views of the surroundings.

The hospital's exterior is predominantly clad in orange brick that references the region's red-clay soil. Concrete frames extending out from each wing angle upwards to form peaks that give the facades a more distinctive and animated aesthetic.

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Other concrete elements frame windows that are shielded behind horizontal screens. These solar shades are treated in bright colours that give the different departments a distinct personality.

“The design creates a close connection between nature and the healing process, with the architectural language of the project a beacon that shines out over the city from its prominent location,” said the project team.

The hospital was completed in December 2016. For more information visit


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