New lease of life

JDDK extension enables St Columba’s Hospice to keep serving its community from its original home

St Columba's Hospice built around the courtyard at the front of the historic house as another part of the walled garden.
St Columba's Hospice built around the courtyard at the front of the historic house as another part of the walled garden.

On a cliff edge, just metres inland from the Firth of Forth, sits St Columba’s Hospice, its grade B listed manor house embedded in the rock. Like many hospices, St Columba’s grew up around the community it serves: the young and old it takes in and the volunteers that are essential to its operation and fund raising. It also shares with many other hospices the heritage of a much-loved old building – in this case Challenger Lodge which was now struggling to serve the need for infection control and the preference for single rooms and en suite bathrooms.

When the hospice first contacted Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall (JDDK) there were fears it might have to move. But as the brief to expand the floor area by massive 300% emerged, so too did a simple solution. The walled garden contained an earlier, single-storey, L-shaped block. By building up and digging down on a very similar footprint JDDK managed to find the space – and take the local community of the Trinity Conservation area in north Edinburgh with it. JDDK director Ian Clarke explains: ‘It is now a more structured and accessible space – external spaces are treated positively as internal ones.’

  • Entering hospice you are greeted by views of manor house but faced squarely towards the main accommodation.
    Entering hospice you are greeted by views of manor house but faced squarely towards the main accommodation.
  • Rooms facing onto the south elevation and its gardens.
    Rooms facing onto the south elevation and its gardens.
  • Balancing technical requirements and quality of life in the new single occupancy rooms.
    Balancing technical requirements and quality of life in the new single occupancy rooms.
  • A green dome above the board room.
    A green dome above the board room.
  • A lightweight building in Edinburgh's grade B listed context.
    A lightweight building in Edinburgh's grade B listed context.
  • A zinc boxed bay window tops the corner of the daycare centre.
    A zinc boxed bay window tops the corner of the daycare centre.
  • From below the small inland cliff, historic house flanked by two new additions
    From below the small inland cliff, historic house flanked by two new additions
  • From the chapel where a pair of binoculars is provided at the altar for watching the ships go by.
    From the chapel where a pair of binoculars is provided at the altar for watching the ships go by.
  • Site plan of St Columb's Hospice
    Site plan of St Columb's Hospice
  • The hospice education centre with an ashlar wall as a reminder of old garden walls between the villas.
    The hospice education centre with an ashlar wall as a reminder of old garden walls between the villas.
  • The north west corner of the site looking out over the cliff edge.
    The north west corner of the site looking out over the cliff edge.

The view from the entrance is still the Challenger Lodge, seen through a glazed section of the colonnade across the courtyard to the house. The steel-framed building amid the masonry of history is grounded with sandstone walls, while at higher levels, on the stepped back facade, render breaks up the mass. The building now has 30 beds, many of them in rooms facing south onto the sheltered garden. The lodge itself is used for specialist education and research, although larger lectures take place in a single storey pavilion across a narrow lane. And so the original house is now flanked by the new buildings, its projecting bay picked up in the bay of the chapel window.  

This project takes JDDK back to its roots and its first health job, when it won St Oswald Hospice in the late 1980s in its home city of Newcastle. A big house proposal secured the competition against other entrants that more closely resembled mini-hospital designs. Ten built hospices later, balancing a high quality experience – an essential part of hospices’ raison d’etre – and technical issues remains the common concern. For St Columba’s, finding a solution to staying on its site and in its community has given the hospice a chance to continue this work of giving the ill and dying some respite.