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German architecture firm wins competition for helicopter landing platform design

Features | May 1, 2010 | By:

A proposed helicopter landing for a German clinic aims to speed patient recovery by speeding delivery times

OX2architekten of Aachen, Germany, recently won a competition to design the new emergency care helicopter landing platform for the University Clinic of Aachen. The platform will be used for helicopter traffic for airlifted emergency patients.

OX2 partners Ina-Marie Orawiec and Prof. Marcin Orawiec’s design of the 15m-high platform is of an uplifted hand, offering rescue and protection. This underscores the structure’s role as the connection between the life-rescuing actions of the emergency medical team and the more-exhaustive efforts of the clinic, in emergency patient care.

A funicular form was chosen to allow the platform to “float” as closely as possible over the main entrance, while presenting a minimized ground-level footprint that doesn’t impede emergency automobile traffic.

One of the significant functional architectural elements of the structure is the passage between the platform and the clinic’s first sub-basement, the location of the intensive life-support people and technology within the clinic. OX2’s solution has reduced the transit distance between the primary emergency caregivers in the helicopter and the better-equipped clinical caregivers to a vertical distance of approximately 22m, with a transit time of 46 seconds. Minimizing this distance is vital in critical cases. Through consideration of landing difficulties—from weather, wind, as well as the physical location of present placement of critical life-support capabilities within the clinic—OX2 was able to reduce transit time by 45%, an advantage over competing designs.

Moreover, the workflow between the emergency teams in the helicopter and the emergency teams on the ground has been planned so that the helicopter could be put back into rescue action within two minutes of delivering an emergency patient.

The overall design of the structure was chosen to reduce material mass and gain a maximum of usability/material used.

The structure will consist of a steel frame with an aluminum roof; the landing surface will have a stamped-in skidproof surface. Aluminum was chosen as the landing surface for its weight, corrosion resistance, ability to be delivered in a pre-fabricated state and its fire resistance. The 45m-long passage will be enclosed with aluminum panels over a steel skeleton.

The external structure will be enclosed with a glass-reinforced PTFE membrane chosen to reduce overall construction mass while maintaining fire-resistance. The membrane has a 25% transparency and will be lighted at night from within. The structure will be tensioned and reinforced with steel cables and stays.

The overall design optimizes a broad number of parameters, including: helicopter-delivered patient outcomes, automobile-delivered patient outcomes, cost of construction, communication of patient-oriented outcome intent, safety, and communication of the clinics’ intent to deliver the most-modern solutions to patient emergency care.

Mark Zeh is a frequent contributor to Fabric Architecture. He resides in Munich, Germany, and conducts pan-european relations for Continuum, a global design and innovation consultancy.

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