Health & Wellbeing

The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh


The new teaching hospital complex at Little France, Edinburgh was created to replace several hospitals within the city whilst providing the latest developments in healthcare treatment. The brief was to provide eight hundred and sixty nine beds and twenty four operating theatres with full diagnostics and support facilities, plus a maternity unit with its own identity, within a floor area of one hundred and twenty thousand square metres.  The location, below Craigmillar Castle, led to planning restrictions on the height of the development to avoid affecting the view from the castle.


The primary architectural objectives were to group the aggregations or specialities within a flexible framework, allowing the boundaries between these linear aggregations to move over short and longer timescales.  This would allow departments to expand or contract to meet demand.  A major factor in the planning was the segregation of traffic flows - service traffic circulating at basement level with dedicated lifts to clinical areas; visitors using the ground floor hospital street and passenger lifts to access the ward entrances and patient movements generally at upper levels from wards to theatres. A fast-track construction of steel frame, with infill of structural framing and insulated panels, was selected to deliver the building to an extremely tight programme.


The building's accommodation is arranged around open central courtyards, which act as a compositional device and allow the planning of a curved principal circulation route.  The curved ward façade also minimises the visible length of a large low level building, an approach chosen to address the restrictions in height due to the sensitive location. Three distinct patterns of patient activity are apparent in the new building.  In-patients, day cases and out-patient functions are reflected in the arrangement and locations of clinics, wards, theatres and the appropriate entrances for each function. In addition to the internal flexibility, the design allows for future expansion within the overall organisational concept.