Australia’s first dedicated heart hospital has opened at Monash University’s Clayton campus.
Designed by Conrad Gargett and Wardle (formerly John Wardle Architects), the $564 million facility operated by Monash Health accommodates 196 beds, seven catheterization laboratories and one whole floor dedicated to heart research.
The hospital incorporates principles of biophilia as well as salutogenic design principles, which aim to create environments that stimulate the mind.
The design team also toured cardiac hospitals in Singapore, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to gain insight into those facilities’ successes and shortcomings.
“Experiencing other heart hospitals really allowed us to challenge the norm of traditional hospital design and [still] do things according to Australasian Health Facility Guidelines in the pursuit of innovation,” said Paul Emmett, principal at Conrad Gargett and clinical planning lead for the project.
The project team began with a workshop facilitated by former Harvard professor Sarah Williams Goldhagen, author of Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives.
“Scientific research well documents that providing a connection with nature within healthcare facilities significantly improves patient outcomes, including their experience and recovery rate,” Emmett said.
Partner at Wardle and project architecture director Meaghan Dwyer added, “Armed with this knowledge, we designed the Victorian Heart Hospital with a large central courtyard – the ‘gravitational heart’ – and have maximized opportunities for engagement with the outdoors and surrounding landscape.”
The circular courtyard is the centrepiece of the hospital, acting as a focal point for wayfinding and a place for recuperating outdoors that is physically and visually connected with the building.
“The hospital’s design needed to allow the working day’s activities to be seamless, and its organization to be clear and legible. Equally important are the spatial, material, and ambient qualities which define the hospital’s character,” Emmett said. “It’s these aspects that will strongly influence the mindset of its occupants and ultimately the type of healing environment that has been created.”
Public spaces within the hospital radiate out from the central courtyard, with the corridors framing views to the courtyard, neighbouring sports fields on the Monash University campus, and Dandenong ranges. These views enhance the building’s connections to nature and daylight.
The hospital has been designed to alleviate the stress levels of patients and their families.
“Upon arrival at the Victorian Heart Hospital, there is a sense of openness, with large voids and a central café, creating a feeling of a civic place rather than a hospital,” said Stefan Mee, principal of Wardle, who also led the architectural design. “The progressive journey through the building gradually increases a sense of tranquillity in the clinical spaces, creating an atmosphere of safety and comfort for patients.”
Internally, the building uses natural timbers and earthy tones inspired by the colours and textures of surrounding landscape, including a more than 400-year-old River Red Gum located at the entrance to the hospital.
A facade made from perforated weathered steel diffuses natural light entering the building, which reduces the heat load and minimizes glare, Mee said.