The design team led the project and reported regularly to the UHL steering group which included wide representation with UHL. Team members were:
- Suzanne Dunne – Head of Strategy
- Eimear Laffan – Healthy Ireland Project Manager
- Niall Joyce – Group Buildings and Maintenance Manager
- Leonora Carey – Occupational Therapist Manager
- Dr. Terence Hennessey – Consultant Cardiologist
- Sheila Bowers – Dietician Manager
- Zita Pearce – Estates Project Manager
- Brid Nash – Business Manager to Suzanne Dunne.
Staff were involved through a number of engagement activities. However there was limited patient involvement, excluding some face-to-face feedback at the prototyping stage on site.
The aim of the Reimagine UHL project was to work with the staff of UHL to develop a vision for an outdoor network of wellbeing and commemorative spaces on the hospital campus in Limerick. We wanted to support the large staff community of over 6,000 people to find a balance in the needs they have for these spaces – rest, commemoration, play, revitalisation – and work with them to design a vision they can make real, based on the concept of providing nature-based solutions for better health.
We looked at connecting the UHL community of stakeholders with possibilities for the future of their space, one which can support twin narratives of recovery and respiration, forming better connections between the core buildings and their external environment. We were very conscious to remain sensitive to the needs of the staff in terms of their workload and mindful of the collective trauma experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our approach was founded on a determination to find imaginative, sensitive and enjoyable ways to draw out ideas and hopes for the public spaces of UHL from the people who know it best. The project methodology was rooted in co-design, with a three-stage iterative process involving a variety of engagement approaches including collaborative site mapping, ideation through focus groups and wide-range surveys, and pop-up prototyping.
One highlight of the project included the informal vox-pop engagements onsite with staff as they used outdoor spaces – eating lunch, taking a walk during a break, chatting, getting some air. The findings from these interactions were complimented by an online survey distributed widely amongst the hospital staff which captured the views of a diverse set of hospital workers, while the vox-pops provided depth and colour to the growing vision for the campus. It was a particular pleasure to jog along beside some very healthy professional dieticians on their lunchbreak dash around campus, getting their insights on the potential of the space while trying to keep up!
For the prototyping stage of the project we explored the priorities that were beginning to emerge from our engagement. We designed a number of pop-up outdoor spaces for staff to test out, using locations identified by our working group. We collaborated with Limerick City & County Council to bring in a mobile forest and commissioned Lumen Street Theatre to decorate the spaces, softening and brightening the institutional edges of the campus. We found that prototyping brought a new sense of the transformative potential of the project vision among staff, and was crucial to the impact of the project.
The co-design process was concluded with in-depth analysis of all engagement data in order to produce a vision document which UHL staff could use to make a plan for the future of their campus spaces. By concentrating on the therapeutic potential of the existing attributes of the space and the positive aspects of the community’s current experiences, we co-designed a vision which could connect the present with the future. We worked collaboratively with the UHL community to develop a plan to create versatile, accessible and enjoyable spaces that are adaptable, empathetic, restorative and commemorative.
The primary output of the project was the collaborative vision document brought together by the design team. This document includes designs for potential future projects the UHL group could pursue.
The project had evaluation built into its timeline, with a vision being built cumulatively as the different inputs and ideas were shared by UHL staff. The project steering group responded to engagement results and guided the design team on implementation strategy. As the vision became more specific, the team presented each stage back to the staff, ensuring that the final document was comprehensively representative of the ideas they had shared. The final vision document has been presented to the project steering group and to the hospital group CEO for review.
At the close of the project, 90.3% of staff surveyed said that they would be in favour of more permanent outdoor seating and shelter installations on UHL campus. Once the final project has been reviewed by hospital management, it is hoped that the suggested projects can be taken to full design stage and implemented across the campus.
The project team worked with the locations and priorities identified during engagement to develop a vision with specific suggestions for walking routes to be developed, as well as areas which could be transformed from underused inhospitable spaces into calm, sheltered locations with flexible uses.
One staff member commented: ‘I think this is an excellent initiative because it is quite inclusive and hopefully will be accessible to lots of staff. I commend you on including staff in the decision-making process, this seems basic but is unfortunately rare. I hope accessibility and usability will be considered at all stages in future planning. Thank you!’
Documentation and Dissemination
The focus of the project was internal to the UL Hospitals Group, and the work of the project was carried out with this in mind.
University Hospital Limerick
Irish Architecture Foundation