Allford Hall Monaghan Morris - The Alder Centre is arranged like a big house
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The Alder Centre is arranged like a big house

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Health  /  Completed
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Established in 1986 by Mr John Ashton following the death of his own son, The Alder Centre is a unique health service both in the UK and globally. Mr Ashton found that conversations with other bereaved parents provide the most support and understanding during the grieving process. Thirty years after the first counselling sessions at the Alder Hey - held in a laundry cupboard in the old children's hospital - the Alder Centre held a Royal Institute of British Architects competition for a new dedicated building and gardens and appointed Allford Hall Monaghan Morris as the architects.

The brief for the Alder Centre building was to create a 'place like no other' that would promote companionship and offer a place of sanctuary.

The external space is thought of as a Secret Garden, coming from the children's book. The building is contained by a walled garden which gives privacy, security and allows outdoor therapy which is something very important to the centre. Like the interiors the gardens were designed so that some areas are communal and other parts are private. The lines of brick walls extend out to the gardens with trellises which give visual and physical privacy to the rooms. The planting obstructs views into the couselling rooms.

During the design phase, the building layout was analysed with sophisticated environmental modelling software that includes sustainable technologies. Windows and skylights are sized so that diffuse light illuminates counselling rooms whilst avoiding glare, temperatures are controlled by underfloor heating to temper spaces and opening vents at the top of pitched roofs drive natural ventilation. Rooflights and sliding glass doors effectively eliminate the need for internal lighting during the daytime.

The design priortises natural and healthy materials throughout. UK made roof tiles were used to decrease carbon associated with transportation. Low carbon, FSC certified timber was specified for the roof structure and brick walls left exposed internally reducing the use of plasterboard.

The Alder Centre building is a small but key component in the continued development of the Alder Hey Health Park Campus. The brief was to create “A Place Like No Other” that will promote companionship and a place of sanctuary. Previously, the service offered by the Alder Centre was carried out in an old building, with counselling services shoehorned into administrative offices overlooking a carpark. However, the new building for the first time offers the opportunity to provide purpose-designed, dedicated spaces to meet the needs of this highly specialised and sensitive service. The building is arranged like a big house. In the middle is the heart space which has a lounge and kitchen. It is where counsellors and families come to gather. A series of counselling rooms, sized like bedrooms, unfold from the heart. There is also a flexible training room and office suite with a dedicated room for the Child Death Helpline, tucked away from the entrance. The external space is thought of as A Secret Garden, coming from the children’s book. An important feature of the design was the brickwork walls that continue out at the edge of the garden to define and secure it. The client body and users have been pleased that the Alder Centre continues the high-quality design aspirations of the recently completed main hospital and institute buildings, to provide a building of sanctuary and comfort that encourages companionship for users.

AHMM was passionate about delivering a building which really reflected the needs of the user, this also was reflected in their relationship with the contractor and the client. There were some slight modifications during the construction and there was some healthy challenge from the design team, however they worked well with the client to reach all design decisions. Sue Brown, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital


 United Kingdom
 The Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
 320 mq
 Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
 Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
 Whitfield and Brown
 Structural/Civil Engineer: Elliott Wood / Cost Consultant: PT Projects / MEP Engineer: David Stillman Associates / Landscape Architect: BBUK
 Furniture: SCP / Joinery and Kitchen: RB12 / Taps: Dornbract / Sanitaryware: VitrA / Rooflights: Velux
 Rob Parrish / Timothy Soar / Infinite 3D


Established in 1989 with offices in London, Bristol and Oklahoma City, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris makes buildings that are satisfying and enjoyable to use, beautiful to look at and easy to understand. The practice designs very different buildings for very different people to use in very different ways, making places as well as buildings that work over time and have lasting qualities intrinsic to their architecture.

Winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize and recipient of many other awards for architecture and design, the practice has received public and media acclaim for its work across sectors. AHMM is known for its reinvention of buildings and places including the Angel and Tea Buildings, Television Centre, the Barbican, and New Scotland Yard, as well as key new commercial, residential and education developments in London, around the UK and internationally.


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