Years of being a ‘sanatorium in the bush’ has written for the Sydney Adventist Hospital (or the SAN) a rich historical narrative, one that meant any redevelopment of the 113-year-old hospital in the city’s north shore had to accommodate for 50 years of future growth, whilst keeping an eye on past successes and core Adventist principles of Body, Mind and Spirit.

Stage one of these upgrades, carried out by MBMO Architects, does just so by introducing new facilities, including 10 operating theatres, an Integrated Cancer Centre and a car park, that continue to encapsulate the hospital’s commitment to patient well-being.

At the heart of this first stage is the LW Clark Tower, a 12-storey building that rises above the bush, blending into as well as addressing its natural settings, and embracing the belief that connecting patients to the natural environment would benefit the healing process.

“[Our] response to the brief was based on biophilic design principles – building and landscape design that enhances physical and mental well-being by fostering positive connections between people and nature, stepping away from the common health care model,” explains Alex Wessling, Associate at MBMO.

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Rather than conforming to the traditional hospital experience, the architects designed LW Clark Tower to be more like a five star hotel than a health institution with a clinical feel, reflecting moves made by a number of other practices away from the functionalist healthcare model.

This was achieved with a consistent use of minimal but high-quality finishes and detailing across the campus, seen evidently in the flooring palette that was deliberately limited to just a handful of carpet and vinyl variations.

Vinyl flooring by Armstrong in Whitehaven is used for patient zones, while back of house and transitional areas make use of Armstrong’s Black Opal. Altro’s Hippo features in high non-slip areas.

The Ontera-carpeted areas are similarly subdivided, whereby all circulation and back of house spaces have one type of carpet, and all patient and family spaces have a different type.

Despite utilising a simple selection, Wessling says each flooring choice was well thought-out, with the carpets and vinyls meeting two of the most important considerations in a healthcare environment – hygiene and ease of maintenance.

“The selection criteria required products that are highly durable in construction and serviceable in design and composition,” she says.

At the same time, understanding the emotive value of the flooring played a role. For MBMO, the carpet used in the ward areas will act as an anchor to the scheme, its pattern providing a high degree of serviceability without being distracting.

In the circulations zones these carpets are utilised as a way-finding device that forms a passive reassurance for way-finding, and delineates zones without the need for additional signage.

“The simplicity and subconscious guidance create a reassuring and calming environment, embracing patients and their families through their sometimes difficult times in a caring hospital environment, all in keeping with the ‘SAN experience’,” says Wessling.

“As an additional bonus the Ontera ranges were chosen for their low VOC and Formaldehyde emitting qualities, and their suitability for reprocessing through the EarthPlus process at the end of its first life in use.”

The LW Clark Tower project is in the running for the Australian Institute of Architects’ NSW Architecture Awards. Photography by Brett Boardman