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Kentville hospice will be filled with ‘light’ and ‘spirit’

Halifax architect Bengie Nycum is shown explaining his design concept for the soon-to-be-built Valley hospice for Kentville.
Halifax architect Bengie Nycum is shown explaining his design concept for the soon-to-be-built Valley hospice for Kentville. - Wendy Elliott

Architect says hospice design inspired by the notion of a hillside nest

KENTVILLE, NS - From the air, the hospice that will be situated in Kentville will have the appearance of a bird sitting on a nest.

Architect Bengie Nycum of William Nycum and Associates in Halifax got an interest in healthcare design from his father, but he developed a passion for it after his mother died.

On Feb. 15 at a special breakfast, Nycum gave an overview of the process he went through to design the unique Valley hospice that will be located in Kentville.

Currently preparing construction documents, he said he hopes the project will be an exciting trailblazer as it goes out to tender in a couple of months.

Nycum, who also designed Wickwire Place in Wolfville, said his first priority was to create a place of "light" and "spirit," explaining that to make the 10 rooms larger, he had to reduce other spaces.

A typical nursing home room in this province is 190 square feet, but he wanted each hospice room to be 220 square feet to allow for family stays. The rooms take up 43 per cent of the building.

“No one will ever know how hard I had to fight. It was a tough sell,” Nycum stated about the resulting reduction in clinical space.

The Valley Regional Hospital property, he said, is “a splendid site, let me tell you. It’s near the (Cornwallis) river, so there’s that flow and continuity of life.”

Nycum said the hospice will sit on a knoll, "like a bird on a nest." He added that because it isn’t attached to the hospital, he specifically used less concrete and more wood.

“It will be a serene setting among the trees for those who want to look for meaning in death,” he said.

Nycum told the gathering about his mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer in 2012 and her fear of death. He said palliative care staff promised, “they’d be there for us, and they were.”

In designing the new hospice, his hope is that the building invites patients to “come be in our nest, return to the nest and have a sense that this is a place where we’re going to be there for you, taking care of ten souls who are parting.”

The architect praised hospice foundation volunteers Don Wells, Kathryne Phillips and Diana Patterson, who have liaised with him for close to a year.

“They’re amazing people,” said Nycum, who also expressed appreciation for palliative care staff.

Fundraising for the project began in 2005 when the Valley Hospice Foundation officially teamed up with the Annapolis Valley District Health Authority.

Some $3.8 million for construction of the hospice was raised locally by the foundation. The aim is to have the facility up and running in 2019.

Did you know?

The first residential care hospice in Nova Scotia is under construction near Point Pleasant Park in the south end of Halifax.

Hospice Halifax secured a site on Francklyn Street on the campus of the Atlantic School of Theology for a 10-bed, two-storey hospice.

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