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The Alder Centre, Liverpool

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

The gentle and modest but comforting and uplifting centre by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris wins 2024 RIBA North West Client of the Year for The Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust

The Alder Centre. Credit: Infinite 3D
The Alder Centre. Credit: Infinite 3D

2024 RIBA North West Award
2024 RIBA North West Client of the Year Award The Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust

The Alder Centre, Liverpool
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for The Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust
Contract value: £1,650,000
GIA: 320m2
Cost per m2: £5,156

The Alder Centre is a new, standalone building within the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool. Providing a specific health service, it offers support for bereaved parents and now also operates a nationwide phoneline, allowing callers to talk to counsellors from anywhere in the country. The building’s purpose is to promote companionship and to offer a place of sanctuary. The architect has designed it as an interpretation of a domestic house, with a living room at its heart and counselling rooms at the scale of bedrooms unfolding from that core. There is a simple but enveloping warmth to the building, which provides spaces for both individual contemplation and togetherness and support, with comforting ease. In its modest way, it fulfils a fundamental need – to acknowledge and share grief, while finding ways to celebrate life.

  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Infinite 3D
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Infinite 3D
  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Rob Parrish
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Rob Parrish
  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Infinite 3D
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Infinite 3D
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The concept for the Alder Centre was established in 1986 by John Ashton following the death of his son. He found that conversations with other parents going through similar experiences often provided the most support and understanding. Thirty years after the first sessions were held in a laundry cupboard in the old children’s hospital, they launched an RIBA competition, won by AHMM.

Hospitals can be exceptionally alienating environments at times of deep emotional trauma: all clinical, wipe-clean surfaces, bleeping machines, flickering strip lights and staff whose workload leaves them little time to talk. The Alder Centre, in contrast, is a place of safety, warmth and support, providing a space where families can shed tears as well as laughter and joy. 

  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
  • The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
    The Alder Centre. Credit: Tim Soar
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The building itself is gentle and modest but well proportioned, with carefully linked spaces. Its form is inherently uplifting, with sight of the sky through generous, vaulted ceilings as well as glazed doors allowing views to the garden and the ability to step out for fresh air and contemplation. Each space manages to feel like a sanctuary, while retaining connections to the ‘real world’ outside. Beyond this, there will be views into a park (currently being planted) as part of the wider hospital masterplan. 

The Alder Centre has the potential to create a new type of therapeutic space focused on bereavement, in the way that Maggie’s Centres have transformed approaches to cancer care. It is in many senses unbelievable that it did not exist before now. The need is so great, so constant, and so very unfulfilled.

See the rest of the North West winners here. And all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Whitefield and Brown
Structural engineer Elliott Wood
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Peta
Landscape architect BBUK

Credit: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Credit: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Credit: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Credit: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

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