Victorian Heart Hospital Clinches Prize for Biophilic Design

Australia's first dedicated cardiac facility was opened in February after touring in hospitals in Singapore, Canada, the US and the UK.

Thu 31 Aug 23


The Victorian Heart Hospital – Australia’s first dedicated cardiac hospital – has been awarded the 2023 INDE—award for the best creative design in the Health and Wellbeing Space category.

Located on the Clayton campus, the Victorian Heart Hospital is the latest addition to the Monash Health group.

Designed by Conrad Gargett and Wardle Australia, the AU $564 million hospital accommodates 196 beds, seven catheterisation laboratories and one whole floor dedicated to heart research.

The award-winning hospital incorporates biophilia and salutogenic design principles to create environments that stimulate the mind.

As reported by Architecture AU, the design team toured cardiac hospitals in Singapore, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom to gain insight into facilities’ successes and shortcomings.

According to Paul Emmett, principal at Conrad Gargett, the tour was instrumental in driving the innovative design.

“Experiencing other heart hospitals allowed us to challenge the norm of traditional hospital design and [still] do things according to Australasian Health Facility Guidelines,” said Mr Emmett, the 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 improves patient outcomes, including their experience and recovery rate,” Mr Emmett said.

In crediting the project, the judging panel noted, “the architecture, interiors, facility and clinical planning all consider the impact of the built environment on the health and wellness of users and guided by strong clinical and patient voices.”

The panel commended the hospital’s large central courtyard – known as its ‘gravitational heart’ – “maximising opportunities for engagement with the outdoors and surrounding landscape.”

The hospital is under construction. Dated October 2022. (Photo Credit: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews Twitter)

The circular courtyard is the centrepiece of the hospital, acting as a focal point for wayfinding and a place for recuperating outdoors.

The focal point is a 400-year-old River Red Gum located at the entrance to the hospital.

“The hospital’s design needed to allow the working day’s activities to be seamless, and its organisation to be clear and legible,” Mr Emmett said,

“Equally important are the spatial, material, and ambient qualities which define the hospital’s character.”

These views enhance the building’s connections to nature and daylight.

“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.”

The project used warm timber materials extensively throughout the interiors of the hospital. (Photo Credit: Peter Bennetts)

Internally, warm timber materials and natural light “aim to create a welcoming healing environment dissimilar to the traditional sterile environment of hospitals,” Mr Mee said.

The interior uses natural timbers and earthy tones, “drawing inspiration from the colours and textures of the surrounding landscape.”

The INDE.Awards celebrate the best and most creative design work of the year across the Indo-Pacific region, as judged by the creative industry.


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