Purpose-planned and purpose-built

The DNRC is a specialist clinical facility.  Its design deliberately puts patients at the centre.  These are bespoke buildings that will enable and support the incredible work that will happen here.

With this in mind – and respecting the DNRC’s setting within the Stanford Hall Estate with its listed house and parkland – the Defence facility blends innovation with tradition.  The building interiors are bespoke and contemporary.  They are specifically designed and laid out to help patients and clinicians.  Approximately 95% of the facility is new build – the use of the Hall is ancillary (offices, staff accommodation etc) and will complement the clinical work across the new build.

The heritage exteriors are inspired by the Stanford Hall Estate and the rich tradition of British military architecture.  The 6th Duke of Westminster, whose idea this was, wanted anyone turning up the drive to know that this is a special place where they would be cared for and looked after.  So the buildings are designed to have impact and the ‘wow factor’ he wanted people coming here for treatment to feel.  

Find out more and listen to perspectives from the architects involved – see below.

Architectural approach

Two of the key guiding principles underpinning the architectural approach have been that the design had to facilitate clinical rehabilitation, but also that those receiving care there should feel safe, in familiar surroundings that inspire a sense of belonging and of being valued. It had to be a place that would attend to the health and wellbeing of the whole person and not just to their physical injuries. Whatever they have experienced, Service men and women will know that in the new Defence establishment they will be safe, they will be well cared for and that they are not forgotten.

For Service men and women, the sense of familiarity comes from being in a military environment; a place that recalls the architectural spirit of the barracks and military academies where they have previously trained and paraded during perhaps the proudest and happiest moments in their careers.

The Defence establishment also needs to inspire a sense of belonging. Whether the injuries for which a Service man or woman is being treated were received in training or on active service abroad, the separation from their unit for a long period has the potential to make them feel lonely and isolated. It is important, therefore, that whilst undergoing rehabilitation, the injured service men and women still feel that they are part of the armed forces and part of their normal world.

The architectural style of the military academies, barracks and other important buildings speaks of a pride in the unit that inhabits that building and the men and women which make up that unit. It is vital that the new rehabilitation centre reflects the nation’s pride and admiration in its armed forces and particularly in those who have suffered in the line of duty.

“It’s about the physical and the mental aspects of the healing process – creating a place where people can get better and feel well again” – John Simpson, Principal of John Simpson Architects, reflects on the monastic origins of hospitals, how attending to the wellbeing and spiritual needs of patients is every bit as important as their physical health in motivating people to get better and how this influenced the arrangement of the buildings, courtyards and gardens in the DNRC.

Respecting the grade II* listed buildings

The Stanford Hall Estate is much loved in the local community and has been considered to be of sufficient importance to attract Grade II* listed status. The creation of the DNRC at Stanford was therefore a very big ask and it was extremely important that the design of the new buildings both respected and was sensitive to the existing buildings.

"We want to build something that will last for hundreds of years – that is classical but adaptable and flexible." Joanna Wachowiak, Partner at John Simpson Architects, reflects on the challenges working with listed buildings presented the design team and how these were overcome.


The extensions and new pavilions immediately around the Hall will be built of a high quality brick with natural stone dressings. These will be simpler than the existing combination of natural and cast stone dressings on the north elevation of the Hall in order to preserve the pre-eminent position of this elevation in the architectural hierarchy.

Where possible, original elements form the estate have been retained in the new design such as the clock tower from the demolished stable block.

The materials used, in particular on exterior aspects of the design such as the roofs and facades, are fundamental to expressing and communicating the significance of what the DNRC is all about. However, they were never justified solely on the grounds of creating impressive and grand appearances. Cost benefits such as the savings in maintenance costs of the life of a building that can be achieved through using more durable, sustainable materials were also considerable and a key underlying principle in the decisions made.


The buildings are complemented by a series of landscaped courtyards and small gardens that have been created amidst the facility. Some are intended to be used as external treatment spaces whilst others will be used for leisure and relaxation.

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.