Bayt Abdullah, Children’s Hospice

Location: Kuwait

Client: KACCH - Kuwait Association for the Care of Children in Hospital

Sector: Health

Cost: £3.5m

On Wednesday 18th January 2012 the Crown Prince of Kuwait, attended by The Prime Minister of Kuwait and other VIP guests, formally inaugurated Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice, the first hospice in the Gulf region entirely dedicated to children.

The Hospice is the inspiration of a group of hospital volunteers led by Margaret Al-Sayer, and named after 4 year old Abdullah; a little boy whose courage and determination they had witnessed in dealing with his ultimately fatal illness. Convinced of the difference the environment makes towards children’s response to treatment and to their quality of life, Margaret’s team set about fundraising and commissioning a totally new kind of centre for their long-term care.

Play areas are the central focus of the centre and integral to the hospice’s palliative care philosophy. There is a kaleidoscopic observation wheel, magic carpet and walkway which lead above the rooftops, culminating in an observation platform which overlooks a flamingo feeding ground, nature reserve and the Persian Gulf. Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the playground structures are intended to capture the spirit of adventure while being friendly, fun, exciting and, importantly, accessible to both mobile and wheelchair-dependent patients.

“The play area is so important we knew it required a very special team of architects,” says Margaret Al-Sayer, “they had to be exceptionally responsive to the children’s boundless imaginations, but also aware of their physical limitations and constraints. In addition, we wanted an environmentally friendly scheme and, as we were raising all the funding from private donations, a team able to work within a tight budget”.

Kaleidoscope Wheel
The focal point of the hospice playground is the kaleidoscope wheel. At 15m in diameter, it will enable the children to sail above the building roofline to enjoy long distance views. The wheel has 8 circular passenger ‘pods’ and can accommodate up to 40 people, with 5 passengers per pod plus a wheelchair user.

The pods are shaded by a perforated canopy in rainbow colours. The positioning of the wheel close to the main building enables it to take advantage of the building’s shading.

 Magic Carpet
The ‘Magic Carpet’ walkway appears to sweep and swoop and float between its curved supports. It is shaded by an undulating, perforated, aluminium canopy that changes colour as it rises to the first floor level, and has protective sides inspired by the patterns on butterfly wings; all of which provide an otherworldly, enchanted experience for the children.

Roof-Top Walkway
The Rooftop Walkway takes children above the rooftops to enjoy the long distance views across the nearby nature reserve and views out to sea. It has been developed as a series of three ‘arched-boxes shaded with patterns, also inspired by butterfly wings, and supported on structural columns between the buildings. The balustrades incorporate images within their perforations that tell a number of the best loved Kuwaiti children’s fables.

Observation Platform
The Observation Platform is a destination for the children where they can use telescopes and binoculars to view the flamingos feeding on the coast, in season. Interpretation boards will provide informative, fun and engaging content. A lift within the Observation Platform allows children to return to the landscaped garden on the ground floor.