The new Perth Children’s Hospital opened to patients, staff and the community, and spans approximately 78000 square metres, with 12 building levels, and is being considered a ‘uniquely Western Australian’ building. The hospital was designed in collaboration between JCY, Cox Architecture, and Billard Leece Partnership.
The animated lighting of artist Stuart Green’s “fizz” sculpture and the green façade surrounding the new hospital provides a ‘visual wonderland’ for those driving past at night. When facing the north side of the hospital, pedestrians can also catch a glimpse at the creative sculpted forms, artwork and play areas, which were designed to help reduce anxiety in a child to when in an unfamiliar environment such as a hospital.
The starting point for the design team was to anchor the Perth Children’s Hospital, in its unique surroundings. The nearby robust flora and fauna of King’s Park inspired the design concept for the building, which was based on petals and a stem. The composition of the building is directly inspired by nature. The elegant floral forms of King’s Park were key in the shaping of the building, and the curvaceous sculptural forms carry through the general theme of the architecture as well. The overall building design has a gentle flow, adding a sense of welcome to all. Rooted in the organic design structure of ‘stem and petals’, the arrangement of the hospital building was designed to emerge as a fluid, connected and sculptural piece.
“The fanning petals house the children’s ward, maximising natural light and views to the south and east. Each petal offers every room natural light and vistas to sky and land,” commented Fernando Faugno from Cox Architecture,
“The meandering ‘stem’ connects the petals and forms a primary movement gallery through the building. Filled with activity and light, the gallery becomes the social spine of the project, connecting all its diverse array of functions and activities.”
The building’s form also emerges from an ideal layout for patient observation.
“Open centres to the building generally afford the perimeter for patients’ and families’ use, and the central area of each of the wings are more open for staff to observe, work and provide support across the unit. So, the two concepts came together pretty nicely from a form optimisation perspective,” explained Mark Mitchell from Billard Leece Partnership.
The incorporation of a double skin façade on the east and west façades (which houses the majority of the clinics, laboratory and teaching spaces) allows for open views to Kings Park, but also control of glare and heat. The façade changes over the course of the day, as the motorised louvres open and close, tracking the sun path.
The colours of the Kings Park bushland provided inspiration for the building’s palette, a crafted range of local colouring, which delivers a sense of vibrancy to the hospital. The facades’ gently curving also forms provides a sense of intrigue as one moves around the structure. Also in terms of colour, “the interior colour-ways reference the incredible bursts of colour from the wildflowers that sweep through Western Australia every year. Instead of focusing a colour in a particular area, there are bursts of a lot of colours,” said Mitchell.
Hospital visits can be a daunting experience for a sick child, often associated with bombarding signs, long endless corridors and noisy waiting areas, but Perth Children’s Hospital aims to different. Every part of the building’s development was considered and recalibrated from a child’s perspective, for example, lowered window seats pop of colour, and visual treasures hidden at the level of the child, which may even be missed by adults. Taking a children-first approach, the seating pod areas are not just for sitting, but for climbing, hiding and exploring, and staff stations in each of the patient areas are designed as treehouses.
“There’s fun and whimsy in the building throughout, such as the window seats… but also in the ceilings along the bed corridors, where there are details in the ceilings. So, if a child’s lying on a bed travelling through the facility, at least there’s something to look at and a bit of wonder as they pass. These design solutions are about removing some of the anxiety,” commented Andrew Rogerson, JCY / Cox.
For a major development such as the Perth Children’s Hospital, a cohesive team needed to be involved, as complex large-scale developments often take the contributions of thousands of people. Clinicians, families, and other key stakeholders were said to have made ‘enormous contributions to the design’, sometimes in ‘unexpected ways’.
“We must have had over a thousand user group meetings. We engaged in some fascinating conversations with the clinicians, who were so critical for engagement on the project, and they were just brilliant in their insights. As well as their inputs beyond the clinical spaces, just looking at best practice in so many different ways – from a sustainability perspective, from an interiors perspective. As a result, I think this hospital has jumped ahead of the pack. Patient and family facilities are up there with the best in the world,” said Mark Mitchell.
“You only get an opportunity like this once in a lifetime… To work on this project was so very special. And it’s a true legacy project for Western Australia, so to be part of that scale and scope of endeavour is extraordinary,” concluded Faugno. The hospital is officially open to the public, as of May 2018.