Lyons Architects’ salutogenic design for the new Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Sunshine, in Melbourne’s west is helping lower stress and anxiety in patients. The project also marks a welcome return for Lyons director Corbett Lyon to the Sunshine Hospital campus after almost 20 years.

Located within the Sunshine Hospital campus, Western Health’s new $200 million Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, which opened in May 2019, caters to the healthcare needs of women and children in Melbourne’s western region.

Lyons’ nine-storey design accommodates wide-ranging facilities including an entire birthing floor comprising of 20 birthing suites and four birthing pools as well as outpatient clinics, imaging facilities, operating theatres, a special-care nursery (including a neonatal intensive care unit), a short-stay paediatric ward, and new inpatient wards. Overnight accommodation is also provided at the hospital for patients from regional towns.

It was on the same Sunshine Hospital campus almost two decades ago that Lyon had led the team responsible for the award-winning design of a new multilevel ward building.

“Decades on, I am still convinced a building can be both functional and a wonderful work of architecture,” says Lyon. “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.”

The use of salutogenic design principles in the new hospital’s layout aims to reduce anxiety and stress levels in patients and also enhance the experience of patients and visitors. Lyon and his team maximised views out to nature throughout the hospital, integrated cool shades of green in the special-care nursery to create a soothing environment, and introduced day beds for patients’ family members to make them feel right at home.

Committed to elevating the design of Australia’s medical facilities, Lyon, as a professor at the University of Melbourne, is also part of a university research team that is studying the impact of the design of paediatric hospitals on the experience of patients, parents and staff. The team will then recommend a set of design guidelines for architects and Government agencies to help create more supportive care environments for children and families across Australia.

A repetitive circular motif has been used throughout the interior of the Joan Kirner Hospital from the structural floorplates, flooring, joinery and bulkheads, right through to lily pads for children to sit on – these circles act as an internal navigation aid for patients and visitors to locate various wards via a simple colour code, explains Lyons associate and co-designer Lucinda Arundel.

Even the hospital building’s colourful façade has context, according to Arundel. The design team had extensively photographed the area, sampled pixels and then reflected those tones within the façade. “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,” Arundel says.

Western Health chief executive officer Russell Harrison has high praise for Lyons’ work.

“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.”

Images: Photography by Dianna Snape