Nurturing tomorrow's healthcare professionals

Lyons Architecture

Monday, 30 July, 2018

Nurturing tomorrow's healthcare professionals

A luminous facade conceals state-of-the art facilities where leading physicians and researchers share their expertise with Adelaide’s aspiring healthcare professionals. For these future doctors, nurses and dentists — and their patients of tomorrow — the Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences building is a welcome addition to an expanding BioMed City.

The University of Adelaide’s $246 million Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences (AHMS) building occupies prime real estate within the state’s biomedical precinct, BioMed City. Notable neighbours include the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

Home to more than 1600 students and 600 health researchers, the AHMS building integrates research and shared learning experiences spanning medicine, nursing and dentistry, along with health and medical sciences. Given its central location, students studying in the AHMS building are ideally located within easy access of industry experts and researchers from the nearby BioMed City.

State-of-the-art technology

Standout features of the AHMS building include the Adelaide Health Simulation centre, which includes 24 state-of-the-art simulation suites. Medical, nursing and health sciences students learn clinical skills in these learning spaces, which replicate the hospital environments they will likely encounter within a professional setting.

In addition to the advanced medical simulation suites, the AHMS building features:

  • four floors of laboratories
  • three lecture theatres
  • study spaces
  • staff and student hubs
  • external balconies with Wi-Fi, heating and cooling
  • a bicycle storeroom and end-of-trip facilities
  • eateries and other amenities.

The top two floors of the facility house the Adelaide Dental Hospital, where the university’s dentistry students undertake their clinical training.

Collaborating on campus

The AHMS building promotes collaboration between clinicians, staff and students, thanks to clever floor plans throughout the 13-storey building. Multimodal teaching areas provide flexibility for staff and students to vary how and where they interact. Meanwhile, a series of balcony terraces provide breakout spaces for informal gatherings.

A sense of community inside the building is palpable, but so too is the connection between the AHMS building and BioMed City. The design that helps facilitate this connection was the brainchild of architecture practice Lyons. Adrian Stanic, Lyons Director and project lead on the AHMS building, was mindful of leveraging the site’s location to help tighten the ties between today’s medical professionals and tomorrow’s healthcare providers.

“We were determined to design a campus that responded to students’ ambitions by empowering them to network easily — not only with their peers but also their mentors,” Stanic said. “Our objective for this building was for it to be a place of unique learning experiences and thus a place of inspiration.”

Thoughtful design

The AHMS building is a warm and welcoming location for visiting clinicians and students alike. A network of indoor and outdoor breakout spaces are connected via a set of feature stairs that mark the ends of a three-storey colonnade facing the North Terrace pedestrian boulevard. It’s a successful strategy that encourages interactions between people occupying or visiting the building.

Meanwhile, some of the outdoor vantage points boast spectacular city views spanning the River Torrens, St Peter’s Cathedral and Adelaide Oval. Orientations that are predominantly outward-looking provide a sense of connection with Adelaide’s CBD. Likewise, when viewed from outer-lying locations, the AHMS building serves as a beacon of both high-end design and higher learning.

“We now have the most high-tech healthcare teaching facility in Australasia with simulation suites that replicate the technology available in modern critical care hospitals, such as the new Royal Adelaide Hospital,” said Alastair Burt, Executive Dean, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide.

“By having access to the same technology, students are surrounded by the same visual cues and sounds, helping them to graduate work ready, reducing hospital costs and improving the delivery of quality and safe health care.”

Location and logistics

Stanic describes the design as among the most challenging and rewarding of his career. “One of the early challenges actually provided us with a significant design opportunity in the form of a 20 m cantilever,” Stanic said. “This was needed to negotiate the railway tunnel easement running through the east end of the site. Added to this was the fact that the site was hemmed in between the railway lines and a major road (North Terrace).”

Importantly, Lyons’ solution also had to accommodate large flexible floor plates for teaching, learning and research uses. “We were challenged to figure out how to claw back significant portions of what was already limited ground area for dedicated campus open-space amenity,” Stanic said.

“We recognised early on that the site shape alone would result in an asymmetrical building, so we developed the design as a series of elements. The corner balcony terraces created a unique emphasis at the ends of the building.”

Meanwhile, a 90 m-wide frontage to North Terrace with an expansive cantilever, at its east end, presides effortlessly over an integrated Urban Park and campus ground plane below.

Award winning design

Lyons’ work on the AHMS building was recently recognised at the Australian Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2018 South Australian State Architecture Awards.

Lyons was awarded the top prize in urban design — the Gavin Walkley Award — for the AHMS building, along with an Award of Merit in the category of educational architecture.

For more information, visit

Adrian Stanic, Lyons Director and project lead on the AHMS building.

All images ©John Gollings

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