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Old Bristol Royal Infirmary

The challenge was to provide a space linked and open to the street while being a full storey height above it (covering a car park + service areas). Broad stepped areas invited exploration of the square while a canal separated private from public zones without vertical barrier.

The conundrum of what to do with the Old Bristol Royal Infirmary site had rumbled on for years, resulting in a series of failed planning applications. Architects Alec French Associates unlocked the site’s potential by electing to retain the impressive building, stripped of its 20th century additions to make it suitable for conversion to private apartments. The now separate listed chapel was earmarked as a community building, with contemporary student accommodation for the remainder of the site.

The design was approached as a series of planted courtyards, some providing gardens for residents and some providing much-needed city greenspace. Separation was created by tiered planting beds, steps and water which balanced the need for privacy and light. The newly appreciated chapel, formed the centrepiece of a new public square, and was seen afresh in a reflection pool. New pedestrian and cycle routes improved the permeability of the site, while out-of-date parking arrangements were reworked to make space for wider footways and street trees.