Another way nature’s influence makes its way indoors is via wayfinding. Melbourne illustrator Jane Reiseger was commissioned to produce eight illustrated Victorian environments (including Port Phillip Bay and Alpine Victoria) populated with animals that occupy each region. Components of these illustrations can be found throughout the hospital, and animals from each particular environment are also used to name wards (surgical care is provided in the platypus ward; cardiac patients stay in the koala ward).
"This strategy, developed by our wayfinding consultants, Büro North, resulted in a complex and rich child-friendly wayfinding strategy throughout the hospital, using the premise that young children navigate space through the recognition of a series of landmarks,” says Healey.
Natural light also assists in wayfinding. All elements of the hospital are linked together through a six-story, naturally lit public thoroughfare called Main Street, providing expansive views of the park. This tactic was based on an “assumption that our intuitive ability for wayfinding is enhanced if the natural environment is present,” Healey adds.
Large art objects help break down the scale of the building, keeping it accessible and friendly. “Creature,” an 8-ton, 14-meter high sculpture by Melbourne artist Alexander Knox, is one such example. It stands as the centerpiece of Main Street, acting as a landmark or meeting place. “I think it’s quite at home in the wonderful imaginations of a child,” says Healey.
The Royal Children’s Hospital is a space which ensures patients and their families that even though they may be sick, they don’t have to miss out on the wonder and magic of being a child. Another of the many community partnerships tapped for the project resulted in the hospital’s bean bag theatre, which shows current and often unreleased movies. Many times new releases are shown there first so patients don’t feel left out when a popular movie comes out in public theatres. Showtime begins with patients settling back into big, comfy and colorful bean bags scattered throughout the room.
Thanks to the local community embracing this project and adding their own special touches throughout, the Royal Children’s Hospital appeals to all ages—including parents and staff, who also spend a significant amount of time there. Perhaps Dennis says it best: “The hospital becomes more than just a place to go and be sick.”