Photo by Dianna Snape
Photo by Dianna Snape
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Lyons architects honour mothers and children in Melbourne’s west

Parents, children and clinicians in Sunshine, in Melbourne’s west, have enthusiastically welcomed a new Lyons-designed hospital. The Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital is located within the Sunshine Hospital campus. 

Lyons’ nine-storey design accommodates wide-ranging facilities including an entire birthing floor, comprising 20 birthing suites and four birthing pools. Out-patient clinics, imaging facilities, operating theatres, a special-care nursery (including a neonatal intensive care unit), a short-stay paediatric ward, and new inpatient wards, are all among the carefully considered layout. For patients who reside in regional towns, the hospital also provides designated rooms for overnight accommodation. 

Architect’s career comes full circle 

For Lyons Director Corbett Lyon, the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital marks a welcome return to the Sunshine Hospital campus. Almost twenty years ago, Corbett led the Lyons team responsible for the award-winning design of a new multilevel ward building at the hospital. The building’s distinctive yellow, curved façade heralded a fresh approach to the design of healthcare facilities. 

“Decades on, I am still convinced a building can be both functional and a wonderful work of architecture,” Corbett says. “Within the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, you’ll find a multitude of design efficiencies but it’s also a very welcoming place that promotes and supports wellbeing for patients, their families and all of the people who work in the building.”

A leading advocate of salutogenic hospital design — configuring and planning spaces to reduce stress and enhance the experience of patients and families — Lyon and his team maximised views out to nature, as both a means to orientate patients and visitors, but also to help lower anxiety and stress levels. 

Meanwhile, in the special-care nursery, cool shades of green help to create a soothing environment within what can be a high-pressure part of the hospital. Elsewhere, personal touches, like the addition of day beds for patients’ loved ones, are designed to make families feel right at home. 

Lyon, also a Professor at the University of Melbourne, is known for his ongoing commitment to elevating the design of Australia’s medical facilities. Currently, he is part of a University of Melbourne research team that is investigating the impact of the design of paediatric hospitals on the experience of patients, parents and staff. The outcome of this research will be the creation of a set of design guidelines for architects and Government agencies striving to create more supportive care environments for Australian children and families.   

Throughout the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a repetition of geometry is evident. Lyons Associate and co-designer Lucinda Arundel explains: “A circular motif has been used to represent layered meanings of life cycles, organic formations, spectrums and community circles and this has been encoded across the interior from the structural floorplates, flooring, joinery and bulkheads, right through to lily pads for children to sit on!”

In addition to serving as a contrast to the hospital’s rectangular façade, the circles also act as an internal navigation aid. Patients and family members can literally ‘join the dots’ to locate wards via a simple colour code.

Outside, the building’s colourful façade fulfils Western Health’s aspiration to provide the community with a hospital that is both contextual and joyful. “We extensively photographed the area, sampled pixels and then reflected those tones within the façade,” Lucinda says. “The lower green levels reflect gardens of the region, whilst higher up we’ve used orange to represent the suburb’s tiled roofs and, yet further up the façade, we’ve used tones indicative of a cloudscape.”

The result is a hospital that beautifully balances its clinical requirements with exceptional design. “Whilst it is fundamentally a place of caring and the provision of health services, it is also full of comforting finishes, colours, artworks and vistas  — all of which are designed to honour patients and care givers alike.”

Surpassing expectations

Western Health Chief Executive Officer Russell Harrison has high praise for Lyons’ work. “We’re very happy with the design done by Lyons,” he says. “The feedback from our patients, their families and our staff has been overwhelmingly positive. We worked collaboratively on a design that responds to the needs of patients, and I think that shines through in the quality of the end product. The west of Melbourne is a fast-growing region and this building is an exciting addition to our expanding service.”

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Status: Built
Location: Melbourne, AU

Photo by Dianna Snape
Photo by Dianna Snape
Photo by Dianna Snape
Photo by Dianna Snape