Sanctuary Commission, East Lothian Community Hospital

“The environment should sensitively acknowledge both hurt and hope”

The Sanctuary Room and Courtyard is a whole-environment brief for East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington, Scotland. For this Commission I was responsible for designing and production of all elements of the interior room and external seating in internal courtyard with plant and path design: “The environment should sensitively acknowledge both hurt and hope”. The Sanctuary Commission was funded by Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation and produced by Arabella Harvey of Round Table Projects.

There are two separate spaces to the Sanctuary Commission – the internal room and the outdoor enclosed courtyard. These spaces are where people are afforded space for ‘time out’, and provide contemplative internal and external creative focal points that offer comfort and peace in times of emotional intensity.

A key element in my design concepts was working with natural materials, curves and imagery with a colour palette that evokes a connection with our natural environment.

I was adamant the two spaces, the internal room and courtyard, had reciprocality, they needed to be in conversation with each other to both invite people outside and provide a soothing continuity. Pattern and the familiarity of a space and simple imagery create a calm for Sanctuary. In this way, I wanted to make the glass wall of the internal room more pervious.



This room, designed with natural colour palette and materials, has three areas for sitting. The large two seater with a roof is a substantial chair, shaped using CLT (cross laminate timber). Its high sides and back allow people to sit back and have a sense of refuge. The roof, a deep blue, shelters the sitter. This seat looks out onto the Courtyard and is reflected by the external two seats, identical in design, that are at the end of the path on their own island of concrete with birch trees to the back.

The handmade coloured ceramic tiles on the side wall make 4 cloud shapes. Each tile is unique with many tile painted in subtle natural glazes, with spots of bright yellow. Some tiles are impressed gently with shapes of insects and birds.

The smooth wooden seat below the clouds is a nod to the landscape, with a gentle rolling of seats at different heights for all ages. Each end of these seats invites younger children grab a pillow and crawl in and have their own cubbyhole.

In the centre of the room is a table and two stools. These pieces use the leftover wet grains or botanicals from the brewing and distilling industry. These Sanctuary seats, created by Draff, use a malt, grain and juniper berries mix giving the stools and table a beautiful organic appearance.


The path is designed to lead directly from the internal room’s door to the outdoor seating. The seating inside and out look back at each other, the shapes and colours reflective in design. The outdoor seats are ‘grounded’ on their own island of concrete. The single seat rotates 360 degrees, allowing people to face away if they want to.

The seats have sky and water coloured metal covers. These metal ‘roofs’ protect the sitter in wet weather, and let them sit peacefully with sound of rain.

The plants have been chosen with specific aesthetic, visual and aromatic qualities. Behind the seats are three birch trees that will buffer the back wall for the sitter and the view from the internal room. Also planted in several places is tall grass and flowers that will sway in the wind and give some shielding.


For this Commission I worked with an incredibly talented group of people, excellent collaborators. These were the fabulous Gary Kennedy Kennedy Twaddle, Aymeric Renoud Draff, ceramic artist Charlotte Cadzow and the planting – which I look forward to seeing grow! – with Kenny Thomson. For the upholstery – never underestimate the attention to details in working with fabrics in hospitals – I worked with Irvine and Sons. Each of these people were key to the overall Commission, working with me on the concepts and vision to make it happen. I can not stress enough what a joy it was to work with such creative people all at the top of their game and who all came onboard with 110% effort.

Images by Rebecca Milling and Lindsay Perth


An interview with East Lothian Courier can be read here.