Conrad Gargett + Wardle have delivered Australia’s first dedicated heart hospital and the only of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, setting a new international benchmark for cardiac hospital design.
The $564 million state-of-the-art Victorian Heart Hospital, operated by Monash Health on the Monash University Clayton campus, is now complete and fully operational, providing a range of world-class clinical cardiology services, research and education.
The 196-bed hospital features seven catheterization laboratories and dedicates one of its eight floors to heart research by Monash University, along with the Monash Cardiovascular Research and Education Centre.
The building’s human-centred design incorporates biophilic and salutogenic principles, with a seamless integration of architecture, clinical planning, interior design and landscape design to create spaces that make the outdoors part of the calming and healing environment.
“Scientific research well documents that providing a connection with nature within healthcare facilities significantly improves patient outcomes, including their experience and recovery rate,” said the project’s Clinical Planning Lead, Paul Emmett, principal at Conrad Gargett.
“Armed with this knowledge, we designed the Victorian Heart Hospital with a large central courtyard—the ‘gravitational heart’—and have maximised opportunities for engagement with the outdoors and surrounding landscape,” added the project’s architecture director, Meaghan Dwyer, a partner at Wardle.
The ‘gravitational heart’ acts as the centrepiece of the Victorian Heart Hospital, with the building’s form wrapping around the landscaped courtyard. It is a focal point for people to find their bearings, and a recuperative place to connect with the outdoors, both physically and visually from within the building.
“The hospital’s design needed to allow the working day’s activities to be seamless, and its organisation to be clear and legible. Equally important are the spatial, material, and ambient qualities which define the hospital’s character,” said Emmett.
“It’s these aspects that will strongly influence the mindset of its occupants and ultimately the type of healing environment that has been created.”
The public spaces of the hospital radiate out from the circular form of the courtyard, in counterpoint to the rectilinear planning elsewhere. Circulation corridors, both public and clinical, frame views of the courtyard, along with the neighbouring university sports fields and the Dandenong Ranges beyond, enhancing visceral connections to nature and daylight.
The Victorian Heart Hospital incorporates lessons learnt from other major international heart hospitals and pushes the boundaries of conventional hospital design.
Key members of the design team, with Monash Health, visited cardiac hospitals in Singapore, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, for insights into the successes and shortcomings of these facilities.
“Experiencing other heart hospitals really allowed us to challenge the norm of traditional hospital design and how to do things according to Australasian Health Facility Guidelines in the pursuit of innovation,” said Emmett.
The Victorian Heart Hospital has been intentionally designed to provide a highly personalised experience and alleviate the stress levels of patients and their families from arrival through to the clinical spaces.
“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 Wardle principal Stefan Mee.
“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,” he added.
The carefully crafted interior palette incorporates natural timbers and earthy tones, drawing inspiration from the colours and textures of the surrounding landscape including the historic Matheson Tree – a grand 400+ year old River Red Gum that stands proudly at the main entrance.
The striking weathered steel façade establishes the Victorian Heart Hospital as a landmark building on the Monash campus, while gently nesting within the tree-lined landscape and providing protection from the sun.
“The perforated steel screen, which will weather over time, reduces the heat load to the building and minimises glare while still permitting views out due to the density of perforation,” said Mee.
“By diffusing natural daylight, the screen also softens shadows and calms the interior.”
The design process was initiated with a project-wide design visioning workshop facilitated by former Harvard professor, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, an award-winning writer and lecturer on architecture and landscapes, cities and urban design, and infrastructure and public art. This workshop unified the clients, stakeholders and design advisors in a design vision that has led to a highly successful project outcome.