"We convinced doctors to move to an open-
plan wing" - Kristen Whittle and Ron Billard

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World Architecture Festival 2012: architects Kristen Whittle and Ron Billard explain how meerkats, fish and open-plan offices for consultants helped provide better care for sick children at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, the winner in the health category at the World Architecture Festival.

Royal Children’s Hospital by Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart

Above: photograph is by Shannon McGrath

Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart collaborated on the design of the hospital, which replaces an existing facility, and the architects describe their decision to remove private rooms from the wards as "one of the most transformational things" they did with the new building. "By interacting with other professionals, [the doctors] are looking at solving problems in a holistic way," says Billard.

Royal Children's Hospital by Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart

The pair also describe the challenges of redesigning a "much-loved institution." The new building centres around a six-storey atrium containing grass-like green spaces, a meerkat enclosure and an aquarium. Billard explains how these devices were intended to create spaces that are "relaxing, not stressful" for children. "Hospitals can be pretty scary places," he says.

Royal Children's Hospital by Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart

Above: photograph is by Shannon McGrath

Rooms in the each of the wards offer views over the gardens and courtyards. "The amount of beds in this hospital is more or less the same as the existing facility, so even though it is a much bigger building, there is only the same amount of beds, says Whittle. "The idea is not to deal with vast quantities of kids, but more become a specialist model for only the acute problems."

Royal Children's Hospital by Billard Leece Partnership and Bates Smart

Above: photograph is by John Gollings

We’ve filmed a series of interviews with award winners at the World Architecture Festival. See all the movies we’ve published so far, including our interview with architect Chris Wilkinson about the World Building of the Year.

See all our stories about WAF 2012 »

  • Ilio

    I would love to see a hospital like that here in Colombia.

  • http://www.zazous.co.uk Zazous

    Or here in the UK. Wonderful idea.