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Architecture and the Body March/April2012


Theatrical Social Space Silvester Fuller Curative Architecture Bates Smart

'A multi-striped slitherer' Sir Peter Cook

Architectural Review Asia Pacific

Imperfect Health The Medicalisation of Architecture

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ProjKt R•viiW Royal Chiklrtm's Hospital


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Melbourne's new Royal Children's Hospital is a design benchmark, reviving a tradition of world - leading medical architecture from Australia. Incorporating a respect for landscape, as well as the psychological benefits of artful interior design and carefully planned wayfinding devices, it is a project of considerable integrity and skill.

hon the Royal



Ho!pital (RCH) opened

on iU pre&ent site h'l 1963, it was an offichmt, air-condition&dcroam-bricks\obthathlled to take advantage of the site's el(poaure to Royal Park. Although an icon in the community's eyo,lt barely seemed

to address the psychological neods of sick children.

Banishing nature, it was typical of the hermetically cealed associated with hospital' oftt\o era. FastforwardneartySOyears,wl\oraicleataoflight, air and landscape have returned to Australian h05pital building. becoming key drivers of tho now RCH's form and

finish,aswollasitsmastcrplanning,intcrnelorganita· tion, wayfinding strategies, interior design ;;~nd artwork. Conaideringthl!'scatl!'ofthlsSt billion project, the concept dovotopod by tho BLBS Joint Venture (Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart Architects) achieves remarkabledesignintogrityacrossavastcampus. Anearlyhurdlowasthocontroversialsitingofthe newbui!dingodjacenttothee~dstingfacility.Community concornswere ralsodaboutpubllcp<~rklandbei nglost,


butwhiletheoldhospitaloccupicd4.1 hectares, the responsetookupexactlythesamearea,prosrossivoly demollshingtMoldcomplaxsothatparklandremains untouched.Evonduringconstruction,builders'hutswero arr~;~nged around existing eucalypts, and community opposition gradually turned to support.

The project's mastorplanner. Ron Billard,employed a lundamentalplanni ngstrategy:usingthe sloplngsito to locate the Emergency ~partmont just below gr,ado at Flemington Road, along with all public parking and servi<:es. Theresultisacompleteabsencaof ugly sarvico road; ringing the comp{ax. The building's main face to Flemington Road floats like a tree canopy, adorned with sun·shading 'leaffpetals'in colours that chango from red to groan, whit a the massive Outpatients block is bisected by a series of courtyard gardens. On the quiet northwest side of the site, in disc ret~ star-shaped inpatient blocks, each bedroom has tho salubrity of a hotoland a court· yard view, or of Royal Park. Each corridor ends in a gtaud sitting bay. It may still be hermetically sealed. but there Is the prospGct of natura, surprisingly for a city building. Thahospital"sinternalorganisationatsplne,thcl broad,light·filled'MainStreot',torminatoainaland· scapDd sarden mound with views beyond to Royal Park. Running the length of Main Street is 'Sky Garden'. five delicate,mobile·likeloafcanop iesbyBrtistJadeOakloy. The~e dosigfl strategies were directed towards how o.n illchildmightfeel,nutlifyingpainnotjustwithmedical carebutwithnormalislngenvironmentalandoxporiontisl measures. Families were considered, too. Whon a child is in hospital, visitor& invariably include not just parents but atao brothers, sisters 8nd often grandparents,

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Archfucts : B ~lard lncl Plft nershlpiM Btt" Smart A.rchitactl with HKS asl nternatiol\lll ..:lvisors- Project dlr&etore: Krbten Whittle, Ron Billard, Sho1111 Propote;h, Mar~ Mitchtll, Je H CopOioll, lvc;y Btst , Ron 0.0011, Rog£-r PoeM, David LOKI, Jim Milodge - Proj1ct lui;! an;: And rt w Francis, Matk HNlty, Mirjll!'la Sa,zlll"'lc;, W~roe Rowen. Rtl~ Burne, Rogllf Oapman -Client: Oopenmont ol Heallh - Bulldarr lolnd LNIO - Counctl: City of Melbourne- Co11traet Valu a: AUDSI .t billion- Size: 165,000 "1"1 (5t~e1 : 140.000 s.qm, stage 2.: 25,000 sqm) - Cons ult · ents: SeNic:u: Norm«~ 0~ Young Pty l td - Strvcturul: Irwin Comultlog Pty ltd- Fn: BGe.E -Building S!XW'yor: Mckfmlie Gre>upTraffM:: Hydor- L~At'ehh~t: land Otsign P ¥tnerthip- Acc:.u: Morris Goding A«IIS Conwltlng - Acotn!ic:: Mor$l'lall o.ty N:.~tM::I - ~~: Bloii'ONotll'l- C<xnm/!sJOMd Artists: Akl~ondor Ktloll, J - Reiseger, Jilda o.k!w IOftWifl :, MICtoS" don, Revit Bid IWirded: No'ft""'-r 2006- Compledon: S t~l 1: November 2011; St age 2: 2014


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107 The hospital produces interior experiences for children that are magical, tactile and engaging, thankfully avoiding cloying Disneyland design.

whichmoanspublicvisitornumberscanb(lveryhigh. Thehospitalhadtoincorporatomcmor<:~b\o visualcuos

and expansive and appropriate eroup seating for fami lies -ithadtoboaplace\'lhoropeoplewouldwanttocomo. According to Bates Smart's Kristen Wh ittle, d irector of

designonthep roject,'Evidencu· baseddesign inacllil· drer~'s hosp itc~lcalls fordGsigrlod ~di stract i onsft', so tho designteamprodw;:edinteriorexperiencesforchildren thataremagical, tact ileandengaging.Thankfully, they've avoidadthcc loyingDisncytandaspoctofmuch 1990s hospitaldesign, instcadstrikinganunusual balance,an

appealtobothtMionocentandsoph ist icated. Onentcringthesix-storeyMainStreot-with its blonde· plywoodlower·levelwaUs,bBlcony revealsanl$ coi tings, andupperlevelsofwhite-thereisanimmedi· ate sense of 'Scandinavian' calm. The inlormation counterisad ramatic,white -p olishedsquiggte,apieceof 'art'. To tho right. chi\dwn aro ~;Jrawn immediately to tho giar'lt two-storey,cylinl$ricalfishtank. lt'sa'd istraction',yes, butalsoaverticalmarkerfortheEmergencyDepartmen t ontholel'el bolow.BoyondisthoCrooturo, ahugo, mu lticolouredsculpturebyMelbourneartistAlexandcrl'\oox, andanothercueforvisitorsemergmgf romthepublie carparkbolow,ad irectionalmarkortowardsOutpa t ients. Thismajorintersectiondelineatesanaxisofcourtyardsandadjoiningwa itingareapodsbeforethemajor outpatientwait inga rca.There. inthofinalcourtya rd. chitdrenandparentscaneojoy th emeerkatenclosu re, anot her'dist rac ti on'andaspllcialcoUaborationbe tween the RCH and Zoos Victoria. Such ma rkers help visi torsnavigatethevastscaleofthecomple•,anOaach intoriorschemorelates inco\our, toxtureandlntroduced artwork (manydoncbychildrcn)tothcfloraand fauna ofeightVietorianlandseapes,fi'Qm PortPhilhpBayto alpinoVictoria.Th ischild-friondlywayfiodingdevieowas prodl.lcedbyMelbourneillustratorJaneRcisegerond coordinated by Mark Healey of Bates Smart, th e lead intcriordesigoor. ln 1950 G. E. Kidder Smith, writ ing on Hj alma r CederstrOm'sSouthern Hospil i! l in Stockholm,ques · tionod 'whethor a building as Mormous as this does notbegintobecome inhumanbyitsverymassand to sodominatebo t hthepatlentandthetownthatitssiJ:e beginstodc fcatitself'. Bycontrast,thoRCHislogible, easytonavigatcaoOtranquil . Whenlvisited,itwasbul!l!ingwithpMplo.Ughl,ai r and \andscape,longheralded virtuesforahca lthyboOy,wcrocvcrywhoroinovidcnco. Remarkably, every ch ild I saw seemed gen1.1inety happy to

Royal Children's Hospital, Architectural Review Asia Pacific, April 2012  
Royal Children's Hospital, Architectural Review Asia Pacific, April 2012