Creating an attractive building is a big hurdle to cross for healthcare projects, but the true test for architects is to ensure that the architecture and design of these spaces cater to the needs of its occupants.

It is on this basis that the Mackay Base Hospital Redevelopment in central Queensland is set apart. Designed by Woods Bagot in collaboration with Billard Leece, its needs (i.e the needs of its staff and patients) have been successfully realised through a ‘design intelligence’ strategy, whereby all design decisions are underpinned by due diligence and research.

On a larger scale, the development of a new acute hospital and refurbishment of existing hospital buildings were necessary to meet the demands placed by a growing population in Mackay. As with most public buildings, the building design had to be cost effective and efficient, ultimately achieving value for money in capital and recurrent costs.

On a narrower scope, the redevelopment would also have to provide high quality and appropriate environments for all users of the facilities. Staff recruitment and retention was crucial, as was access and egress into, around and out of the hospital.

Both the big picture aims and more specific goals have been met. With a $400 million price tag, the three stage program managed to carry out less refurbished works than was planned, deliver a 20 per cent reduction in the original construction program, and create greater alignment with the intended model of care and services.

“The project provided an opportunity to deliver a redevelopment which has a positive impact on Mackay as a whole” says Andrew Vikstrom, an Associate at Woods Bagot.

“Most importantly the hospital should foster the best possible healing environment for patients.”

A considered approach was taken by the team, so that aesthetics and purpose were closely aligned and not running disparately.

Central to this is cohesion. The hospital has 10 buildings housing 40 distinct departments, all connected by a central communication spine. The wide deviation of services on offer could lead to a disjointed campus, with each department operating on its own, but the site has been united by good planning.

Critical clinical departments have been stacked on top of each other, with departments with the highest volume of public contact located on the ground floor.

Vibrant facades also play a role in melding harmony between the buildings.

“The overall approach was to design the façades of the total group of buildings as a family of buildings which relate strongly to each other in regard to the selection of external materials, finishes and type of façade systems employed,” says Vikstrom.

“By varying colours and materials you also assist in way-finding and a sense of ownership for departments.”

Bluescope Lysaght Azure with a pre-painted finish was used on the primary façade, and Fielders Steel Roofing's Nailstrip is fixed vertically on the façade of the central spine.

At the same time, all buildings are grounded on a masonry base of glazed PGH Bowbre Blue bricks forming a continuous plinth 500mm high. This solid base upon which all the buildings are founded allows the structures to have a direct relationship to the ground line.

According to Vikstrom, these products were chosen for their longevity and durability – crucial factors for a hospital that had consistent, long-term value. Moreover, the site’s sub-tropical location meant the products had to be able to withstand all elements, including cyclones, floods and 40 degree days.

Internally, the design was developed to transform the traditional hierarchy-based workplace to a fully flexible, knowledge sharing environment with mobile elements and less inter-departmental barriers. Again, congruity is key. There is not a single office in sight, and a single shared administration and management hub (the first of its kind) encourages collegiality.

A dedicated staff base with gym, relaxation and recreational spaces, and overnight accommodation for medical overnight stays have also been created to enhance staff experience of the building.

The architecture and interiors also support patient care by placing the patient at the centre of the design philosophy rather than at the periphery. Communal external balconies on inpatient units, sensitively designed bedroom interiors, low window sills and the softening of harsh sunlight glare at the building perimeter are some of the simple moves made to improve the patient journey.

Compact laminate for wall protection, door entry portals and joinery provide a long-lasting finish without compromising on aesthetics. Timber (spotted gum) veneer and laminate for feature walls, key hospital joinery and bed heads provided a warmth which assisted in breaking up the sterile, otherwise emotionless nature of some clinical areas.

The more common vinyl flooring was also used, favoured for its ability to adhere to infection control and durability requirements. However, Bronwyn McColl, leader of Interior Design at Woods Bagot’s Brisbane studio, notes that the team pushed the boundaries by utilising colour to provide visual cues to staff, patients and visitors in identifying departments, public and private zones.

Crypton backed custom fabric from Instyle Fabrics was specified for all inbuilt joinery seating and patient room seating, adding to the hospital’s design identity without compromising on infection requirements and health care environment performance expectations.

“Our design aim was to rethink the use of materials in health projects to establish a less austere, clinical environment, and a more residential and personable feel,” says McColl.

Well-defined and responsive, the Mackay Base Hospital Redevelopment supports both employees and patients with its intelligent design, proving that design, like beauty, should always be more than skin deep.

Bluescope Lysaght Azure refreshes Mackay Base Hospital’s profile

The primary façade of Mackay Base Hospital features Lysaght Azure, a façade design that offers an elegant two-dimensional simplicity while adding to the buildings’ personality.

Designed for easy and precise installation, Azure’s interlocking panels are screwed to the lightweight supporting structure that is the basis of all BlueScope Lysaght facades. The profile can be specified in a variety of depth, height, length and joint width dimensions, and the façade components can be installed in slanted, curved and corner configurations.

Bluescope Lysaght's environmentally friendly facades are manufactured in Australia from steel and other recyclable materials. To find out more about the product, please click HERE.

Photography by Daryl Wright