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Nuns dine out on their long-term relationship

Nuns dine out on their long-term relationship

01 Aug 2017 | Written by Karen Crowe

One of the best things about the architectural profession is that no two days are the same. This can also be said for clients: their values, approach and budget are often extremely wide ranging. As a business, the skill comes from being able to interpret these and tailor design solutions to fit all client’s values, aspirations and budgets.

Ironically, it’s often the more high value or challenging projects (or clients!) that most readily spring to mind in a ‘roll-call’ of key projects, in spite of the fact these may frequently be ‘one-off’ projects.

However, rather like the child that never misses a day at school and always hands in their homework on time, some clients can easily ‘go under the architectural radar’ and seldom attract the attention or recognition they deserve. In an attempt to ‘right such wrongs’, we want to celebrate those clients who are committed to establishing and developing long term relationships, who place a high value on what you, as a company, can do for them and who recognise that you share the same vision for the development of their spaces/land.

A fine example of just such a client is the religious order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) who are based in Harrogate. We’ve recently completed another project for the Order: this represents Phase 7 of our work for them developing the original Art Deco convent building and 7 acre site in which it sits. As our first project for the Order was back in 2008, this is one of our most well established client relationships.

The Society of the Holy Child Jesus provides care for elderly and terminally ill nuns from throughout the Order’s missions around the world. Niven has worked for nearly 10 years remodelling the original Art Deco convent building to provide the Order with the standard of facilities expected within a modern care setting. This has involved, amongst other things, the creation of a highly sustainable Dementia Care Centre sympathetically designed to sit within the large landscaped gardens of the Convent. In addition, Cornelia House, the 1970’s Infirmary building, has also been refurbished and remodelled to create new bedrooms with en-suite facilities for both nuns and care staff.

SHCJ’s brief for their latest project may have been relatively modest by comparison to some of the other developments on the site but it was no less important to us. Over the past few years, the Order has had to cope with an ageing population of nuns which has been reflected in an increased number of residents they provide care for. Niven was asked to find a solution which could provide a new dining area large enough to accommodate this increase as well as to modify and improve the existing kitchen facilities. The new space required wheelchair access at every point and required careful attention to ensure any new facilities were in keeping with the surrounding buildings as well as retaining the existing link corridor.

The final design focused on creating a new link extension in vacant space between a number of adjoining buildings which provided a larger, more centrally located dining room which all residents were able to access and use. The kitchen facilities were also reconfigured to improve their use and an enlarged food storage area was created. Light levels were inevitably comprised given the close proximity and height of the surrounding buildings: a large roof lantern was therefore installed in order to maximise the available light and create an attractive environment for the residents.

Despite its modest cost, this was a complex project due to the significant constraints of the site and the need to limit the disruption for the residents who are very elderly and infirm.

Simon Crowe, Director of Niven said: “Long term clients like SHCJ appreciate quality and longevity. More often than not products specified are not the cheapest but are best suited for the required use: an approach which also applies to procuring professional services.  Working with a client over so many years has meant we’ve been able to develop mutually enjoyable working relationships grounded in trust. The Society’s Management Team enjoys getting involved in the projects but they also follow what we’re doing as a practice, ask about our families and also about Seda……our office dog”.

The feedback from SHCJ regarding the latest project has been extremely positive: Niven has been asked to return and carry out the next phase of work, which involves further upgrades to the bedrooms in Cornelia House.

You can see SHCJ’s Dementia Care Unit and other similar projects by clicking on the following link //