Architecture: The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital

WORDS Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES Tristan McLaren via

London-based architecture studio Sheppard Robson International, together with John Cooper Architecture, and South Africa-based GAPP and Ruben Reddy Architects, recently completed the new Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg.

Operating as a specialist academic and surgical care facility, the 200-bed space, completed in 2016, is located in Parktown on the University of Witwatersrand’s education campus. The 29 900 m2 hospital is made up of six wings over two floors and also includes family accommodation on site.

With nature, natural light and ventilation key elements of the brief, a large number of windows were incorporated into the design. The windows of the concrete and orange brick building look out onto the surrounding landscape, which features both therapeutic gardens and courtyards where patients can relax or receive treatment.

Also key to the design of the space is a “secret garden”, which acts as both the visual and spiritual core of the hospital. Both ID:SR (Sheppard Robson’s internal interior design team) and South African interior designers Blackbird Design created colourful interiors and signage, making the hospital a more comfortable, engaging space for children.

Reviewing the new building for The Architects Journal, Hannah le Roux, University of Witwatersrand associate professor in the School of Architecture and Planning, wrote, “…the hospital, of all the projects in Mandela’s name, will stand out as his most fitting tribute. Its broader vision to enact the rights of children and to pass on an exemplary legacy makes it a truly noble place. It illustrates in concrete terms how design can perform a healing role in the face of political damage.”