Australia’s largest and most advanced children’s hospital, the $1.5 billion Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital by Conrad Gargett Lyons, has officially opened to the public.

Located in South Brisbane, the project was seven years in the making and brings staff and services from two different hospitals (Royal Children’s Hospital and Mater Children’s Hospital) together into a new purpose-designed 359 bed tertiary/quaternary hospital.

“The contemporary design we envisaged several years ago has been delivered and will allow us to achieve our goal of delivering patient and family-focused healthcare,” says Children’s Health Queensland chief executive, Dr Peter Steer, adding that building the project was a highly complex task.

The building references the structure of a tree with a ‘trunk’ and ‘branches’ providing vertical and horizontal linkages that move beyond silo departments to unite diverse cultures and create a rich community environment.

The tree structure also enables way-finding, and offers greater access to natural light, fresh air and landscaping – elements which are deemed conducive to a healing environment. Expansive sun shading responds to Brisbane’s subtropical climate and forms a major design element with purple and green blades referencing the surrounding nature.

Openings in the façade reinforce the permeability of the hospital design, as internal spaces are better connected to the outdoors. This is further facilitated by major windows that allow people to see in and out from the facility, helping them gain a better understanding of the context they are placed in.

According to Dr Bruce Wolfe, director of Conrad Gargett Lyons, the most successful aspect of the building was getting the extent of the landscape into the building.

“We’ve stepped the design of the building back as it gets taller,” he says, “and you’ll see each and one of those roof plains has been used for natural environments; gardens that people can go out into, patients can be wheeled out on to, and in some instances, rehabilitation gardens.”

The landscape architecture, carried out by Conrad Gargett, finds its roots in research that shows the significant influence nature and the built environment have on health and wellbeing. With only 23 per cent covered by a conventional roof, 77 per cent of the site is made of public open space, including roads or roof gardens.

Some key features in the landscape include a large green sloping roof comprising 1,400 individual planting cassettes and 23,000 plants, six transplanted 30 year old fig trees, play areas and a number of roof gardens for recreation and rehabilitation.

The roof gardens feature over 46,000 individual plants, eight garden shelters, 12 green monoliths and 33 epiphyte columns.

Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones, Christopher Hall Jordan and Lend Lease