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A hospital with an attitude: the new Royal Children Hospital in Melbourne, Australia

I recently visited the new building for Royal Children Hospital in Melbourne, Australia which, as I hope these images capture, manages to successfully create a friendly and stimulating environment for children.

Hospital's main façade

The Creature by Alexander Knox
The building is welcoming and fun to be in—and this is not only true for the children! A luminous central atrium, or main street as it is called, housing a myriad of practical functions, distributing and connecting to different parts of the building (including emergency), is highly legible, convivial and also exciting (not a term often associated with hospitals).

The atrium contains an enormous sculpture (the Creature, by Alexander Knox), a cylindrical aquarium that extends over two floors and a well used interactive wall/screen where children can play music or games.

From the ‘main street’ one can also enjoy views of the playground, surrounding gardens, the Royal Park and cafés. Fortunately McDonalds is not the only and main feature this time.

interactive screen
interactive screen
Aquarium spanning over two floors

Murals depicting children themes delicately decorate columns, walls and the inside of lifts. Wards are given names such as Mountain Top, Koala and Tree Tops.

While hues of white are still the dominant colour palette, other colours stand out and enliven the rooms. Adding to this, nurses also exhibit bright coloured printed coats. Children rooms have plenty of natural light and from here it is possible to enjoy extensive views of the Royal Park. A comfortable and dedicated space for parents within the rooms assist them to remain with the child all the time.

View of playground below
Murals frame access to different wards
Murals enliven the access to different parts of the building

A hospital of this type (just focusing on the building) would come at an elevated cost that would make it unfeasible in poorer countries. However, what I consider important in this case is that more than building and objects, this hospital reflects an attitude to health and children, one that avoid the seriousness and intimidating aspects of health and conceives a hospital as an opportunity to make a child—who may be undergoing stressful circumstances—happy. It is the approach, which can be assumed involved comprehensive consultation with hospital staff and interdisciplinary collaboration that may be replicable by less costly means.

Hospital's main access

Client: Bovis Lend Lease
Completion: 2011
BLP and Bates Smart with HKS Inc. Architects of Dallas, Texas and consulting engineers Norman Disney & Young

Find more:
The Royal Children Hospital (its history)

Text and photographs by Beatriz C. Maturana


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