Projects of 2020: Triumph and tragedy


Source: Alamy

2020 had its fair share of controversial projects but it also offered up some gems. We look back over quite a year…

In late January, at a point when most of us were still struggling to spell coronavirus let alone imagine it would reach the UK, you probably read a headline that made your jaw drop.

China building hospital in six days for coronavirus patients,” it said, accompanied by a picture showing 35 diggers on a vast, empty site.

The hangar-like buildings erected in Wuhan could care for 1,000 highly infectious patients suffering from this strange new disease. To all but a few specialists, the speed seemed extraordinary, the kind of thing that can only happen in China.

Yet just two months later Britain was frantically starting work on similar facilities to cope with a feared tidal wave of patients as the pandemic began to wreak havoc across the world.

The main difference was that the UK’s surge hospitals were created in existing buildings repurposed at breakneck speed.

The construction teams told Building Design of the exhilaration of working against the clock and without the usual protocols that can drag out a hospital project to many years not days.

“Everyone just rolled up their sleeves and started on it,” recalled James Hepburn, an engineer and principal at BDP who worked on the first NHS Nightingale at London’s ExCeL.


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