Joan Kirner Women's and Children's Hospital

Joan Kirner Women's and Children's Hospital

For families of Melbourne’s West, the new Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital represents an investment in the future of a culturally diverse community. With the Western region of Melbourne being one of the fastest growing areas in Australia, Sunshine craved a hospital that could deliver the volume and level of care that families deserve.

Built on a foundation of evidence-based design and salutogenesis, the state of the art facility allows more women to give birth and access children’s services closer to home in Melbourne’s west. The hospital is a pivotal contribution to the community, providing a new level of care previously unprecedented in the area, as well as attracting the very best health workers keen to engage with the state of the art facilities. Our goal is not simply to transport state of the art facilities and templated design principles into a community, but instead design a building for the community, from the community. The fabric of the hospital’s context is woven into the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital to provide a sense of familiarity and authenticity for both healthcare workers, patients and their families.

  • Sector

    Hospitals & Healthcare

  • Key Lyons contacts

    Corbett Lyon

  • Client

    Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority
    Western Health

  • Location

    176 Furlong St, St Albans VIC

  • Traditional land

    Located on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people

  • Size

    24,960 square metres

  • Project Status

    Complete, 2019

“Within the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, you’ll find a multitude of design efficiencies but it’s also a very welcoming place that promotes and supports wellbeing for patients, their families and all of the people who work in the building.”

Corbett Lyon, Director of Lyons

We worked collaboratively on a design that responds to the needs of patients, and I think that shines through in the quality of the end product. The west of Melbourne is a fast-growing region and this building is an exciting addition to our expanding service.”

Russell Harrison, Western Health CEO

Designing for a growing community

We designed the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital to be a part of, and contribute to the life and experience of the community. Named after Victoria’s first female premier, nicknamed Warrior of the West, the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital is a salute to the mother of three and self confessed workaholic who fought for local causes. The nine-storey design accommodates wide-ranging facilities including a birthing floor with birthing suites and birthing pools, imaging facilities, operating theatres, a special-care nursery (including a neonatal intensive care unit), a short-stay paediatric ward, and a children’s clinic including a fracture clinic. The hospital marks a significant addition to the Sunshine community, attracting new staff and giving existing medical workers access to state of the art facilities. 

The Sunshine Hospital campus was familiar territory for our Director Corbett Lyon. Almost twenty years ago Corbett led the Lyons team responsible for the award-winning design of a new multilevel ward building at the hospital.

“Decades on, I am still convinced a building can be both functional and a wonderful work of architecture,” Corbett says. “Within the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, you’ll find a multitude of design efficiencies but it’s also a very welcoming place that promotes and supports wellbeing for patients, their families and all of the people who work in the building.”


Our aim was to design a building that reflected and contributed to the diverse community of Sunshine. Western Health’s aspiration for the hospital was to provide the community with a facility that was both contextual to the suburb of Sunshine and joyful to its inhabitants. To achieve this we used particular techniques and methodologies in the initial design phase. The site and surrounding area was extensively photographed to capture in pixels the colours of Sunshine that would inform the tones of the façade. We designed the lower green levels of the building to reflect the gardens of the region. Higher up we used orange to represent the suburb’s tiled roofs and, further up the façade, tones of grey, blue and white in homage to a cloudscape. The result is a building that’s unified with its environment. 

Not only does the exterior of the hospital contribute to the experience of the city, its core design and functionality have a ripple effect on the community. This is a result of a design centered on functionality and efficiency. We consulted with a wide range of user groups on the project to establish the most operationally effective arrangement of facilities to optimise Western Health’s model of care. To encourage a collaborative process of critiquing ideas, we presented designs and options at a series of interactive design reviews. 

What resulted was a ‘block and stack’ design of the hospital departments. The building has been designed with opportunities to link other functional areas within the Sunshine Hospital campus. This includes consumables, connections to the main emergency department and the capacity to direct overflow theatre cases into the main operating suite in the existing hospital.

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Salutogenic design for wellbeing and healing

We know that good design positively contributes to our wellbeing and health. With this knowledge we implemented salutogenic principles to inform the configuration and planning of spaces in the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital to reduce stress and enhance the experience of patients and families.

A salutogenic model guided our design process to meet the brief of creating a building appropriate in its function and appearance for women, children, carers and families. This included muted colour palettes, natural materials such as timber, plenty of natural light and various geometric shapes. 

We designed the interior spaces with repetition of circular shapes to represent layered meanings of life cycles, organic formations and community circles. The circular motif is echoed across the interior from the structural floorplates, flooring, joinery and bulkheads, right through to lily pads for children to sit on. They also act as internal navigation, allowing patients and visitors to orientate themselves by literally joining the dots in conjunction with each floor’s colour code. 


Maximising comfort in birthing rooms became innate to our design, a bi-product of working together with Western Health to keep patients and staff at the forefront of our minds. Large windows flood in natural light and calming views of nature, while rooms with movable furniture allow the configuration to be customised for the mother’s needs.  

Heightening the sense of calm and scale outdoors, our team designed external areas for staff, patients and visitors to retreat to all year round. In response to the sense of stress and trepidation of children waiting for parents, our designs diffused these areas with spaces for play. These interactive spaces make a potentially foreboding place like a hospital more approachable and friendly for children, occupying them while families wait and reducing stress levels. Our goal was to give everyone a voice and give every member of the patient’s family, right down to the smallest one, a chance to express themselves in areas historically reserved for functionality.

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Key Contacts

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