O'Donnell Maternity Hospital’s rooftop is a colourful park of curvilinear forms

padilla nicás arquitectos renews the rooftop of O'Donnell Maternity Hospital into a whimsical playground as a more holistic approach to healthcare.

by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Jan 21, 2023

Over the last few years, the relationship between healthcare architecture and the medical industry has gained significant traction. We could even go to the extent of saying, while medicine cures, the healthcare environment heals. In this space, where architecture and medicine have merged to create a space where treatment is a process, hospital design has moved away from the conventional need-based deliverable to a place that becomes a part of one's journey to recovery. Emphasising this thought, architects around the world are envisioning spaces that not only help treat the disease but extend to treating the patient. Adding to the diverse approaches in the field, the Union Internationale des Architectes’ (UIA) theme for the 2022 edition of World Architecture Day also revolved around ‘Architecture for well-being.’

In an attempt to explore the possibilities of design in healing, Spain-based padilla nicás arquitectos have conceived a unique approach, which adds a new layer to the Public Maternity and Pediatric Hospital Gregorio Marañón in Madrid. The building was originally designed by architect Rafael Moneo in collaboration with José Ma de la Mata, in 2003. Francisco José Padilla and Juan Manuel Nicás’ addition to the O’Donnell Maternity Hospital takes shape in the form of a rooftop garden. With a glazed facade of the building, a staple detail of the International Style, the hospital has neutral and calm design interventions, similar to those that can be seen in the buildings designed at the time. To this minimal design, padilla nicás arquitectos have managed to add a colourful and unexpected space. “This project was a motivational initiative by the Juegaterapia Foundation which produced and submitted a successful proposal to occupy the roof of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital and begin its transformation into a playground so that hospitalised children can play outdoors,” share the architects.

  • The rooftop garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital by padilla nicás arquitectos | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    The rooftop garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital by padilla nicás arquitectos Image: José Hevia
  • The colourful and unexpected space aims to improve the day-to-day life of children and their families, with the intention of facilitating mutual encounters and accelerating their recovery | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    The colourful and unexpected space aims to improve the day-to-day life of children and their families, with the intention of facilitating mutual encounters and accelerating their recovery Image: José Hevia
  • The curvilinear white concrete figures, of different heights and dimensions, protect from the sun as well as reflect the colours and textures, producing vibrant spaces sheltered under them | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    The curvilinear white concrete figures, of different heights and dimensions, protect from the sun as well as reflect the colours and textures, producing vibrant spaces sheltered under them Image: José Hevia
  • The large area of the garden is divided into two zones, of different character, depending on the street they accompany | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    The large area of the garden is divided into two zones, of different characteristics, depending on the street they accompany Image: José Hevia

To produce vibrant spaces that are both fun and functional, the architects primarily turned to curvilinear white concrete forms, of different heights and dimensions. Nicknamed ‘the clouds’, these structures guide the intervention, creating a vivid and contrasting aesthetic within the original building. Keeping in mind the purpose and user group, the structural support for these ‘clouds’ are catered through slender circular pillars, thereby imparting a sense of weightlessness. Furthermore, on the lower face, different elements such as glass, perforations, and ceramic mosaics can be found. Adding a whimsical and playful narrative to the space, the coloured spots on the pavement contain activities and games, which remain partially hidden behind the curved walls, inviting children to explore and discover the garden.

  • Connecting both spaces, we find the hall of mirrors, a room with the intention of creating surprise while introducing a new experience, making the passage between areas more pleasant | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    Connecting both spaces, we find the hall of mirrors, a room with the intention of creating surprise, while introducing a new experience, making the passage between areas more pleasant Image: José Hevia
  • The perimeter is formed by a semi-transparent mesh enclosure that encompasses the garden while allowing long views of the landscape of Madrid | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    The perimeter is formed by a semi-transparent mesh enclosure that encompasses the garden while allowing long views of the landscape of Madrid Image: José Hevia
  • Though colourful, the architects carefully played around with the design elements so as to not overwhelm the user | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    Though colourful, the architects carefully played around with the design elements so as to not overwhelm the user Image: José Hevia

The 1240 sqm. area of the rooftop garden is divided into two zones. Situated near O'Donnell Street, the first zone hosts more noisy activities and has a small stage, swings, slides, bicycles, and a maze, while the second zone is calmer, elongated, and overlooks a park. The latter zone has a large irregularly shaped table, with two varying heights, a telescope, table football, tangram, baskets, and a small mini-golf at the end of the course.

While the ‘clouds’ remain monochromatic, the furniture design of these spaces explores a vibrant colour palette. Even while leaning towards a colourful aesthetic, the architects were careful in playing around with the design elements, so as to not overwhelm the user. But even in their minimalist approach, they have added small details in the form of curvaceous corners and organic voids.

  • Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Aerial view render | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Aerial view render Image: José Hevia
  • The coloured spots on the pavement contain activities and games, which remain more or less visible behind the curved walls, thus inviting children to explore and discover the garden | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    The coloured spots on the pavement contain activities and games, which remain more or less visible behind the curved walls, thus inviting children to explore and discover the garden Image: José Hevia

Transcending this minimalistic design approach into curious storytelling, the architects have created an in-between space connecting these two zones. Named ‘The hall of mirrors,’ this space has been designed with the intention of creating surprise while introducing a new experience, making the passage between areas more pleasant. Bringing together all three parts of the garden into a single space of recreation is a perimeter created from a semi-transparent mesh enclosure. Though the perimeter encompasses the garden, it also introduces the user to long views of the landscape of Madrid.

Talking about the project, the architects' shared, “We would like to think that the result is perceived as abstract and dreamlike, intentionally alien to other known spaces and with the ability for each child to project their imagination and fantasy onto it, finding their own space for play and fun outdoors away from their daily routine at the hospital.”

  • Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Detail of the furniture | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Detail of the furniture Image: José Hevia
  • Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Floor plan | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Floor plan Image: José Hevia
  • Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Roof plan | Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital | padilla nicás arquitectos | STIRworld
    Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital: Roof plan Image: José Hevia

Project Details

Name: Rooftop Garden of the O'Donnell Maternity Hospital
Location: C/O'Donnell 48, Madrid
Area: 1240 sq.m.
Architects: padilla nicás arquitectos
Lead Architects: Francisco José Padilla and Juan Manuel Nicás
Project Architect: Alicia Peña    
Client: Juegaterapia Foundation
Collaborators: Daniel Guerra (Architect), Carlos Garberí (Architect), Giusy di Pinto (Architect), Ignacio Barrera (Student), Lucas Fernández (Student)
Measurements and Budget: Raquel Ibañez Blasco
Quantity Surveyor: Javier Reñones Marín
Structure: Bernabéu Ingenieros
Contractor: Ferrovial Servicios, SA

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