Wellbeing in a Clinical Setting

Delivering wellness-focused design solutions within clinical settings is one of the greatest challenges we face as architects and designers.

Not only do we have to address the medical needs of patients, but we have to consider their social, emotional, psychological, cultural and spiritual needs too. It’s an incredibly complex equation that requires utmost sensitivity as well as a high level of understanding.

Consequently, all our work in the healthcare sector is driven by a responsive human-centric design approach and our emphasis is on the delivery of holistic outcomes that normalise the patient experience. Our Melbourne studio’s two recent projects for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre within the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre exemplify our vision as a practice, reimagining these clinical settings in the process.

In the Sony Foundation You Can Centre, we were tasked with providing a lounge and clinical support spaces for adolescents and young adults. The design respectfully eschews the clichés usually associated with teenagers in favour of a nature-inspired theme. By using undulating timber walls and warm timber flooring throughout the space, the outcome feels domestic in scale and not anything at all like a hospital, which is the idea. The Wellbeing Centre likewise features soft edges and plenty of organically-shaped motifs, which echo nature in their form and configuration.

Both projects provide a variety of settings where patients and their loved ones can feel welcome, safe and like they belong. But while the social role of each determines spatial layout and planning, the schemes are driven by biophilic design.

This is also the case with our more modestly-sized projects, such as Alfred Health’s main reception area and the redevelopment of Cabrini Paediatric Ward. The latter is especially notable for its use of technology to engage young patients by exploring ideas of play through an interactive mural that features animations of animals and the natural environment. It softens the experience of being in a clinical setting by providing a distraction and instead sparking wonder, discovery and joy.

All these projects are working hard to alleviate the dread, fear and exhaustion often associated with medical diagnosis and treatment, although nothing in either space feels forced. Organic material palettes, soft colours and logical spatial sequences come together to offer immersive environments that make patients feel nurtured and reassured. Ultimately, our aim is to champion wellbeing through calming design that translates into an empowering and uplifting experiential outcome.