Boogertman + Partners in association with Geyser Hahn have responded to the definitive ‘Thuma Mina’ moment in South Africa by rallying design and support services to deliver a proposal in partnership with Blue IQ Infrastructure Consultants to turn the iconic Johannesburg FNB Soccer City Stadium into a 1500 bed Temporary Severe Acute Respiratory Infections Treatment Centre.
In 2007 the practice stepped up to the challenge of delivering a world class soccer stadium to be ready in a timeline considered by many as unfeasible for the kick-off match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Calabash represented the gourd or vessel around which people came together to celebrate. On the afternoon of the 28th of March, 2 days after the nationwide lockdown began, a dedicated team of professionals including architects, hospital design specialists, interior and urban designers responded to a 72 hour turnaround brief to turn the stadium into a field hospital, a very different form of coming together and one that the team hope never materialises.
However a stadium designed for large volumes of segregated audiences to move swiftly within defined areas (players, spectators, media, VIPS, vendors) lends itself very well to creating space for patients, medical staff and suppliers to move through a treatment system while keeping the distancing needed to minimize the risk of increased infection. From basement level to the upper suite levels each tier of the stadium was assigned a role in the flow of treatment from testing and patient assessment to high care in ICU units.
Thanks to the skill set within the group and the partnerships forged over years of project delivery, the design and logistics proposal for Soccer City and an alternate site, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria were ready for presentation by Tuesday morning the 31st of March. Jean Grobler (Director, Boogertman + Partners) highlights that the combination of the Soccer City original design teams’ knowledge of the stadium through Bob van Bebber, the Geyser Hahn health design specialist Henry du Plessis’ understanding of the challenges and the inputs from the Boogertman + Partners range of design skills partnered with engineers, quantity surveyors and safety specialists was an incredible collaboration. “While I hope we never have to build our design, which we believe is excellent solution from initial low-risk cases through to full ICU facilities, the spirit of collective problem-solving and goodwill was incredible. It made us proud of our profession.”
The team worked in lockdown and used Zoom for design collaborations. While responding with urgency to prepare for the situation that would emerge with a fast infection rate, which would overwhelm the existing Gauteng health infrastructure, they took care to work with international and local best practice guidelines. From the World Health Organisation to the requirements of National and Provincial Departments of Health and consulting with peers in the UK preparing similar facilities, the team gathered insight and learnings while prototyping solutions.
The final proposal is a holistic solution that included adjusting an NHS patient flow process from admission to treatment and escalation to ICU wards if needed, right through to mortuaries and provisions for the safety, protection and rest areas for medical staff. Provision of facilities for patients was divided into three categories of risk with the appropriate shielding and cubicles used for those at the highest need of care and intubation with beds and less intensive medical facilities provided for patients who needed to be monitored to assess their level of response to the COVD19 infection.
The final scheme in the field hospital proposal accommodates minimum 1 500 beds. It is engineered for the best safety possible while accommodating the high volume of patients, medical specialists, support staff and vendors of up to over 4 500 people daily if the facility runs at full capacity.
As Cyril Ramaphosa said in his statement on the 16th of March: “If we act together, if we act now, and if we act decisively, we will overcome ‘COVID19.’”
Jean Grobler says, “This proactive response galvanised by an emergency proves that, irrespective of the role people have in a professional team, we can use design to come together and solve really tough challenges.”