Structure & Design ISSUE 6

Page 54



Text: Michael Nott | Photos, Plans And Elevations: Geoffrey Fox, Architectural Planning Studio


OR ANY patient visiting a hospital it can be a daunting and slightly scary experience. For children, particularly for children with a sight related problem, it can be frightening and intimidating, especially as most hospitals are usually cold and clinical. A notable exception is the Paediatric Ophthalmic Eye Unit at the Richard Morris Hospital (part of the United Bulawayo Hospitals or UBH). It’s a child friendly, welcoming place designed with bright cheerful colours and an interior courtyard filled with sunshine and toys, which is used as an informal waiting room or a place to relax and eat lunch. The staff has their own slightly smaller courtyard where they can have a quiet break and enjoy a breath of fresh air. All the signage is designed to be large and easy to read to avoid any confusion or difficulties for visually challenged patients. The lower part of the interior walls (or dado) is painted in distinct bright colours so that


structure & design

it easy to see where the plain grey doors or recesses are located – another important and carefully thought out visual aid. Access to the clinic can be either from the main hospital or directly from the open space outside the front entrance. The exterior has been simply landscaped with paved walkways, some green grass and waterwise plants, and a few wild olive trees, all intended to make the clinic seem friendlier and less like a cold institutional building. And there’s even a huge teddy bear at the reception to greet the children. Although it’s officially a paediatric clinic adults can also receive care and treatment, whether it’s a simple eye test and a pair of prescription spectacles, a cataract operation or more specialised eye surgery. It’s one of only two referral clinics in the southern part of Zimbabwe so UBH services Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Matabeleland North and South Provinces, Masvingo and Midlands Provinces, as

well as patients from across the Southern African region. The Bulawayo United Hospital had an eye department for adults and children, but their operating theatre has been closed for years due to a leaky roof which damaged valuable equipment. Before the new clinic began operating patients would have had to make the long and costly journey to Harare for evaluations, treatment and checkups. There are a couple of small dormitories or hostels where parents or care-givers can sleep if children need to stay overnight or for a few days in the recovery ward. It’s especially convenient for parents and patients from lower income brackets or for people who have had to travel long distances to the clinic. The whole design ethos is geared towards the practicalities of the procedures carried out and the comfort and convenience of the patients and their caretakers. The majority of the funding for the project