A new public hospital with 290 beds has recently opened in the Swiss town of Solothurn. Both the distinctive base structure and the wards above are equipped with triple-glazed insulating units from Glas Trösch, creating an ideal indoor climate. The interior features around 3.5 kilometres of glass partitions and doors, which combine functionalities such as fire protection, privacy protection and soundproofing with added daylight. With this design, the planners from Silvia Gmür Reto Gmür Architekten are following the modern aspiration of hospitals giving proper consideration to people’s needs.
The history of the Bürgerspital Solothurn dates back to 1418, when Pope Martin V granted the citizens of Solothurn permission to found a hospital. The building was located directly on the River Aare, which divides the city from east to west. The Bürgerspital has been located at its present site in Schöngrün, on the southern edge of the town, since 1930. The existing tower block and administration wing, dating from the 1970s and built in the box-like concrete style of the day, was already too small a good 30 years after its inauguration and is now in need of replacement.
Swiss architects Silvia Gmür Reto Gmür won the associated international architectural tender in 2008. Their design envisaged an L-shaped base structure supporting a six-storey block. This solution won over the competition jury panel, from both an operational point of view and an urban planning point of view. The shape of the building defines an outdoor area that can be used as a sheltered park, and also offers the possibility of expanding the hospital in the same design language at a later stage. Due to its age, the existing 1970s building will be demolished following the occupation of the new building.
Generous glazing in public areas
The two-storey base building houses the public spaces as well as the examination and treatment areas. The access routes run along the facades. This creates an area of around 5,700 square metres per floor, which houses the medical departments. Bright, surrounding corridors provide patients, visitors and staff with a view of the surrounding countryside. The structure of the facade is reminiscent of scales, and offers a series of extremely pleasant spaces. This is due to the largely floor-to-ceiling glazing, which features an 8.3-metre-high mullion-transom system with a distance of 7.5 metres between the main mullions.
SILVERSTAR SUPERSELEKT 35/14 T triple glazing from Glas Trösch ensures the indoor area is comfortable and with a g-value of just 12 % it offers very efficient heat protection in the summer. As a result, there was no need to install exterior shading, so the base building maintains a clear and distinctive appearance. The insulating glass meets the most stringent safety requirements, as the outer panes are partially prestressed and the central panes are designed as single-pane safety glass. The Ug value is at a very low 0.55 W/m²K whilst still allowing an impressive light transmission of 30.4 %.
Ideal climate in patient rooms
The ward block marks the intersection of the two legs of the L-shape. Here, the facade has a finer, more delicate appearance. The curtain wall shading system, which consists of 1,740 sculptural elements made of white concrete, is particularly distinctive. The actual thermal facade behind it is fully glazed from floor to ceiling, with a grid of aluminium profiles in dimensions of 4.2 to 3.6 metres. Here, too, a triple-glazed insulating unit from Glas Trösch was selected, but with a different functionality from the base construction: SILVERSTAR COMBI Neutral 51/26 was used; this combines basic heat protection with excellent thermal insulation. The latter is further improved by an additional coating, achieving an extremely low Ug value of 0.51 W/m²K with considerable 44.5 % light transmission. All in all, this ensures optimal conditions for the speedy recovery of the patients, who enjoy particularly good views thanks to the high colour neutrality of the glass.
The consistent consideration of patient needs, described by the planners as a “healing architecture”, makes the architecture part of the therapy. Even the beds on the wards are not positioned next to each other as usual, but are set at around 90 degrees to each other, with the wards having a slightly angled layout. According to the architects, this layout allows for greater intimacy and privacy. In addition, the distance between the beds has been more than doubled, compared to a standard room of the same size. Curtains provide additional shade if required.
Three-and-a-half kilometres of glass partitions
Partition walls from Swiss specialists, BlessArt, were installed inside the new building and fitted with SWISSDUREX single-pane safety glass from Glas Trösch. The partition walls, totalling 3.5 kilometres in length, and around 500 doors ensure rooms are flooded with light and meet a wide range of requirements, from particularly high levels of sound insulation in the sleep laboratory and effective radiation protection in the radiology department to reliable fire protection in corridors. Another thing all the walls have in common is that being made of glass, they are particularly hygienic, robust and easy to clean. They are also impressive in terms of design, thanks to a variety of prints and coatings.
High energy standards
The Bürgerspital Solothurn was the first hospital in Switzerland to be certified to the Minergie-Eco standard, confirming that it meets building standards for “building ecology” and “health.” The health aspects of “daylight,” “sound insulation” and “interior climate” as well as “sustainable building concept,” “materials and processes” and “grey energy” are taken into account in the certification. The glass solutions played an important role in achieving this high construction standard. The building won the renowned Swiss “best architects award” in 2021.
The first construction phase went into operation in the middle of this year and construction phase 2 is expected to be completed in 2026.
This article was originally published in IGS Magazines Winter 2021 Issue: Read the full Magazine here for more thought-leadership from those spearheading the industry
Author: Andreas Scheib
Andreas has worked for Glas Trösch for almost 20 years in various positions. After completing a Master’s degree in corporate communications at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, he became the Group’s Chief Communication Officer in 2019. In this position, he is responsible for marketing in the architectural glass business unit. In addition to his professional tasks, Andreas engages in voluntary work for an organisation that offers free-time activities for teenagers in the region, thus preventing them from excessive media consumption.
Project: Bürgerspital Solothurn, Switzerland
Client: Canton of Solothurn, Rötihof Building Department, Solothurn
Architects: Bürgerspital Solothurn planning consortium, Silvia Gmür Reto Gmür Architekten, Basel
Site management: Bürgerspital Solothurn planning consortium, Walter Dietsche
Baumanagement AG, René Wieland
Facade planning: PPEngineering GmbH, Basel
SILVERSTAR SUPERSELEKT 35/14 T triple-glazed insulating units with an additional layer of SILVERSTAR EN2plus
SILVERSTAR COMBI Neutral 51/26 triple-glazed insulating units with an additional layer of SILVERSTAR EN2plus
Glass partition wall system from BlessArt Raumsysteme AG, implemented with Glas Trösch SWISSDUREX single-pane safety glass