What is bespoke about it?

The DNRC will break new ground in many ways, not least in that it will set new standards and create new precedents. The creation of a new rehabilitation centre on the scale of the DNRC has not been attempted in the UK previously and the approach to planning and designing the facility will stand as an exemplar for how to design clinical rehabilitation facilities.

The DNRC’s Defence establishment will replace Headley Court in delivering the specialist (tertiary) Defence rehabilitation capacity for the United Kingdom with the following case mix being treated through both inpatient and outpatient services:

  • Musculo-skeletal injury
  • Complex trauma injury
  • Neurological injury
  • Cardiac conditions
  • Rheumatological conditions
The Ministry of Defence‘s Surgeon General on the importance of a purpose built facility.

The Defence establishment being built will be at the core of the DNRC. Detailed consultations with the Headley Court staff were carried out, including over 300 separate user group meetings. This intense and extensive process ensured that the unique expertise in specialist clinical rehabilitation of the highly experienced staff at Headley Court is embedded in the design for the Defence establishment.

However, as well as creating a modern, 21st century clinical facility, the design team also successfully maintained the principles of traditional architecture and created the required look and feel of the Defence establishment. They also ensured that the design was flexible, not least to allow new technologies yet to be developed to be incorporated in the future.

These could have been viewed as competing and incompatible requirements. This risk was carefully considered from the outset and by the design team as a whole, a process in which the contributions of the engineers was as important as those of the architects. That the outcome is so successful is testament to the skills and experience that this professional team brought to the project.

Keith Millay explains why the DNRC is different and what is novel and innovative about the design.


Much of Stanford Hall estate is registered parkland and it was therefore essential that the new buildings should sit well within this landscape in a way that would create the right environment for rehabilitation whilst also being acceptable to English Heritage (now Historic England).

But this spectacularly beautiful setting also opened up the possibility that the whole site could be considered in the context of clinical rehabilitation. There were tremendous opportunities to explore how the landscape might be used to create therapeutic environments that would both enhance clinical outcomes and create better experiences for patients and staff.

Evidence based design in healthcare has demonstrated that patients and staff all benefit through engagement with the natural landscape. The unique setting of Stanford Hall and its surroundings will offer a healing environment which joins body, spirit, science and healing. The existing formal terraces and gardens, such as the Italian Terrace, will be restored and new landscape areas created to form a range of formal gardens, courtyards and less formal landscaping.

Injured Service men and women often experience feelings of insecurity and stress in open spaces and an important design consideration has therefore been the creation of smaller, enclosed outdoor spaces that eliminate or reduce these stressors. The retention of the Walled Garden is one of the best examples of this and forms an ideal space for the creation of a therapeutic and secure environment in which healing can take place.

Keith Millay, Managing Director of Steffian Bradley Architects, discusses how these aspects have been interwoven and how the traditional elements have been used to enhance the clinical solution.