The Royal Children’s Hospital
The new Royal Children’s Hospital: Unveiling a nature-inspired design.
Melbourne’s new $1.0b Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), recently unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II, is set to begin a revolution in healthcare architecture. Designed by joint venture Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart Architects (BLBS), with US based HKS as international advisors, the construction of the new hospital has been managed by the Children’s Health Partnership with Lend Lease, based on ‘state of the art’ ideas developed by the RCH and the Department of Health around a family-centred care model that puts children and their parents at the centre of the new facility.
- Opened in 2011, the new hospital produces 45% less greenhouse gas emissions than its predecessor. Particular features include energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, a tri-generation (combined power, heating and cooling) plant and solar panels. To enhance water efficiency, the hospital features a blackwater treatment system and water efficient fittings, and catches rainfall. Its landscaped gardens also require minimal water.
Building & Interior design:
The design of Melbourne’s $AUD1 billion Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is based on ‘state of the art’ ideas developed by the hospital around a family-centred care model that puts children and their parents at the centre of the tertiary level paediatric care facility. Using innovative and evidence-based design principles, the RCH reflects changing healthcare practices, workplace patterns, user expectations, community aspirations and environmental responsibility.
The building’s formal arrangement, as well the internal and external spatial experiences, has been assembled to promote a restorative and healing environment for children and their families.
The resulting architectonic language has been directly informed by the Royal Park setting, a park with a character much like a typical slice of Victorian bushland. Special attention was paid to the natural textures, forms and colours of the park and how this could directly inform the material expression of the building. A detailed study resulted which indicates how the built environment infused with the experience of nature can speak to children and help provide a therapeutic hopeful backdrop for those visiting the hospital. Considered detailing invites the human touch, acknowledges the child in a respectful way, provides a robust and safe environment yet de-institutionalises the hospital genre.
The building has been split into campus masterplan with a central street joining major new public gardens to the north and southwest. The north orientation breaks away from the city grid and turns instead to the park enabling the collection of buildings light-filled landscaped gardens around their full perimeter, avoiding a ‘front and back’ portrayal and enhancing the connection between child and park. The use of narrow footprints for the clinical buildings provides for abundant natural light to enter all corners of the Hospital. The natural slope of the site meant the new facilities could link to the park at three different levels intertwining the Hospital with its park setting.
The Inpatient Building is designed in a star shape, connecting the rooms to the park. More than 80 per cent of the rooms have park views, others look into courtyards. Specially designed glass sunshades on the Hospital’s exterior allow activity in the grounds below to be viewed from the patient’s bed.
Bedroom spaces, 85% that are single occupancy, have been designed to be calm and comforting, befitting a place of recovery and respite. Medical procedures are conducted away from the bedroom whenever possible, leaving the bedroom to be a haven for rest and family time. Desk surface for schoolwork, sofa beds for family stays and opportunities for personalisation are provided to encourage a normalisation of the hospital stay.
A significant feature of the building is the sweep of coloured ‘leaf’ blades along Flemington Road. Fabricated in curved panels, they provide protection from the sun whilst creating a shimmering organic structure and identity for the RCH.
At the heart of the new facility is the six storey atrium and Main Street which links the elements of the Hospital together through a naturally lit public thoroughfare with expansive views of the parkland beyond. A truly civic space, the Main Street features a two-storey coral reef aquarium, large-scale artworks, a meerkat enclosure and a range of places to eat and meet with family, colleagues or friends. Partnerships with the zoo, science museum and cinemas have resulted in popular activities for children and families which distract and engage the imagination of all age groups.
Recognising the health of our environment and the health of people are inextricably linked, the new hospital campus delivers a holistic approach to sustainability – environmental, emotional, physical and psychological.
The integrated design solution separates support from clinical areas enabling shut down of areas not required to run 24 hours per day; provides views to parkland wherever possible; optimises natural daylight; and significantly reduces the carbon footprint through a combination of tri-generation, bio-mass heating, solar thermal panels and water conservation including blackwater treatment and rainwater recovery among other initiatives. Energy efficiency measures mean the hospital produces 45 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions compared to a conventional hospital and water saving measures achieve at least a 20% reduction in water use.
The co-location on campus of clinical, research and education elements is an important feature of the design.
The landscape design has been integral to the multidisciplinary design approach of the new Hospital. Developing the landscape design in harmony with the architecture, engineering and servicing, ensures a holistic design which responds to the Royal Park site and users with a strong emphasis on sustainability.
The landscape scope is large and varied, encompassing 20 separate spaces including healing gardens, therapy gardens, parkland environments, family gardens, retreat and breakout spaces. Design solutions are underpinned by strong consultation with User Groups and the State reference group.
Billard Leece Partnership
More than 100 architects and designers were involved in creating the building based on the forms, patination and colour mapped directly from the natural world to form an enriching and restorative environment for children, staff and the public. The therapeutic benefits of nature in the healing process underpin the design of the new RCH. For Kristen Whittle Director at Bates Smart and the lead designer for the project, the hospital’s Royal Park location made it a dream site allowing the park’s energy to be drawn through the building.
“We strived to imbue every part of the new hospital with the warm and restorative powers of the unique Royal Park setting.
“We gave special attention to the natural textures, forms and colours of the park and how this could directly inform the material expression of the building. This is a new benchmark for hospital design and shows how the built environment, infused with nature can speak to the child,” says Whittle.
The street concept and north orientation, allowed daylight-filled landscaped gardens around the full perimeter of the building, avoiding a ‘front and back’ portrayal. The natural slope of the site meant that the new facilities could link to the park at three different levels intertwining the hospital with its park setting.
The Inpatient Unit Building is designed in a star shape, connecting the rooms to the park. More than eighty per cent of the rooms have park views, others look into courtyards. Specially designed glass sunshades on the hospital’s exterior allow activity in the grounds below to be viewed from the patient’s bed.
Bedroom spaces, 85% that are single occupancy, have been designed to be calm and comforting, befitting a place of recovery and respite. Medical procedures are conducted away from the bedroom whenever possible, leaving the bedroom to be a haven for rest and family time.
The main feature of the building is the sweep of coloured ‘leaf’ blades along Flemington Road. Fabricated from curved glass, they are both beautiful and practical, providing protection from the sun whilst also creating a shimmering organic structure.
At the heart of the new facility is the six storey ‘Main Street’ which links all the elements of the hospital together through a naturally lit public thoroughfare with expansive views of the parkland beyond. A spectacular collection of child distractions are contained within the space including a two-storey aquarium, large-scale artworks, as well as a range of places to eat and meet with family, colleagues or friends. Melbourne Zoo, Scienceworks Museum and Hoyts provided installations within the hospital to distract and engage the imagination of all age groups.
For Ron Billard, masterplanner for the project and Director of Billard Leece Partnership, the co-location of clinical, research and education was an important feature of the design.
“Our priorities were the creation of positive workplace settings for the clinicians, educators and researchers working at the hospital and of course, the family-friendly, child-focussed, lowstress settings for those in need of care.
“The new educational and lifestyle amenities set this building apart in the world of health design and we believe that the facility is destined to become an important point of reference for designers globally,” says Billard.
With the new Royal Children’s Hospital opening after four years of meticulous planning and construction, Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart Architects look forward to seeing the staff, children and families experiencing and enjoying the spaces as they intended.
The $1 billion project will provide an opportunity for delivering new Models of Care incorporating innovative international health care concepts including:
- evidence based design principles
- family centred design approach
- environmentally sustainable design
- introduction of daylight and nature into work and health care settings
- co-location of clinical, research and education facilities
A central ‘street’ allows intuitive way-finding and creates a social heart for the hospital. Oriented to the north, the light-filled street binds the campus-like arrangement of buildings together, offering views of the parkland setting and the Melbourne skyline.
Patient bedroom designs include three zones (clinical, patient and family) that respond to the emotional needs of children and help enhance patient experience and recovery rates. With more than 85 per cent of the rooms designed for single occupancy, children can personalise their space and feel their bedroom is a safe and personal haven.
ESD features are a strong component in the design of the new hospital. Features which are being considered in the design include solar panels, orientation, volatile organic compound free materials, collection and re-use of rainwater, water efficient appliances and landscaping, black water treatment plant, efficient lighting, heating and cooling, 500 bike parking spaces, materials with high recycled content, bio mass fuel boiler, and 5 star Green Star status.
“The quality of awarded projects in the primary categories was very high. In presenting the award for Interior Design Excellence and Innovation for 2012 to the Royal Children’s Hospital, the jury wishes to also acknowledge the excellence of Vue de Monde in setting a new standard for Australian design identity. The interior design of the Royal Children’s Hospital will extend the experience of the power of interiors into the public realm further than any other project this year. The designers are to be congratulated on this highly complex, technical, responsive and, above all, beautiful hospital interior.” – Jury Citation / Australian interior design awards
Project name: The Royal Children’s Hospital
Location: Flemington Road, North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Coordinates: -37.793563, 144.949321
Type: Hospital, Hospital Interior, Hospital Space
Project Area: 165,000 sqm
Project Year: 2009 – 2010
Construction: 12 months
Completion Year: 2011
Visit The Royal Children’s Hospital’s website: here
Client / Owner / Developer: Department of Health, Victorian State Government, Australia
- Bates Smart Architects, 1 Nicholson Street East Melbourne VIC 3002, Australia
- Billard Leece Partnership, 7/172 Flinders Street Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
- Jeff Copolov, Mark Healey, Kristen Whittle, Andrew Francis, Nicola Lodge, Jane Reiseger, Rosemary Burne, Wai Fong Chin, Lucy Croft, Paola Echeverry, Lynsey Fox, Ross Goldsworthy, Sue Guzick, Tonya Hinde, Claire Hughes, Alice Milledge, Simone Morgan, Mairead Murphy, Daniel Rafter, Evan Reeves, Anna Spirou, Kathrin Stumpf, Inta Thomas, Elisabetta Zanella, Sarah White
Landscape Architect: Land Design Partnership, 52/54 Rathdowne Street Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
Acoustics Consultant: Marshall Day
Art Consultant: Bronwen Colman
Civil Engineer: Irwinconsult
Environmental Engineer: Norman Disney & Young
Lighting Consultant: Norman Disney & Young
Sustainability Consultant: Norman Disney & Young
Illustrator: Jane Reiseger
Main Contractor: Lend Lease
Specialist Paediatric Adviser: HKS, Inc
Structural Engineer: Irwinconsult
Wayfinding Consultant: Buro North
Text Description: © Courtesy of Billard Leece Partnership, Bates Smart, australianinteriordesignawards, worldarchitecturefestival
Images: © Shannon McGrath, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Billard Leece Partnership, Bates Smart, John Gollings