Westmead Health Precinct centrepiece connects to health's future

Thursday, 29 July, 2021

Westmead Health Precinct centrepiece connects to health's future

Tying together one of the largest health, education, innovation and research hubs in Australia, Westmead’s Central Acute Services Building (CASB) stands as the new benchmark for connection in design. As the centrepiece of the Westmead Health Precinct, the 14-level structure redefines form and function by anchoring a health, research and innovation ecosystem envied the world over.

The impressive building reflects more than four decades of health service to western Sydney’s rapidly expanding population, with a softer, more personal persona also on offer. Cut in beside sharp geometric lines and shimmering cold glass are warming colours and flowing lines of imagination. It’s a shameless reflection of the soul that lies within — a constant reminder of the tough clinical decisions being made each and every day by the caring hearts of its world-renowned staff.

The building is centrally located between Westmead Hospital and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, integrating two of the state’s most respected health services.

“The outcomes are palpable,” said Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Chief Executive Graeme Loy. “It provides timely access to world-class clinical services. But it’s more than a physical link.

“Doctors, nurses and staff working together nurture a culture of collaboration, striving to provide better treatments and care through advanced research and innovation.”

Twenty-five operating theatres represent some of the most significant synergies, with advanced interventional and MRI capabilities shared between the adult and children’s services. Underlining the emphasis to embed real-time learning into everyday practice, the high-tech theatres enable procedures to be streamed live to medical students in classes on other floors.

The new facility boasts 25 operating theatres.

The CASB features two new emergency departments (one for adults and one for children); education, training and research embedded into each level; 1.5 floors for the University of Sydney; expanded imaging, pharmacy and logistics; more than 300 patient rooms (many single occupancy); dedicated carer zones; and a pronounced focus on wellbeing with maximised natural light and views extending to the Sydney CBD.

“The Westmead masterplan is a representation of the transformative effect of architecture,” HDR principal architect Ronald Hicks said. “When it was conceived 10 years ago the level of integration was ahead of its time, and the outcome has been incredibly positive.”

Westmead’s redevelopment also introduces the visually commanding Innovation Centre, a six-level, state-of-the-art hub designed to support education and development of innovative clinical technologies and research.

Inspired and informed by ‘Yerrenin’ — an indigenous term for meeting — the Innovation Centre design encourages collaboration. It includes ‘bump spaces’ where staff interact and share ideas, an exhibition area, large meeting and social spaces, and a flexible work environment.

It’s not surprising that participation and partnerships rise to the surface here, too. Engagement has been at the forefront of thinking throughout the CASB design phase, with the Westmead community involved in planning workshops, discussions and simulations in the five years leading up to construction. This connection has played a key role in incorporating the area’s rich indigenous culture and arts history. Fourteen projects were initially proposed via the arts and culture advisory committee and endorsed by the three primary partners — WSLHD, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and the University of Sydney.

Now interspersed through its sympathetic landscaping, stone-pathed pedestrian links and on its walls, an exhibition the envy of many leading galleries provides a permanent reminder of art’s importance in health and healing. ‘Gumadagu Gurang’ (Place of our Ancestors) — a depiction of the southern night skies as seen through Aboriginal eyes, Indigenous artist Danie Mellor’s 60-metre-long mural entitled ‘The River’, and the Cultural Gathering Place offer three of many arts sites at which to rest and reflect.

These sites complement a dynamic main forecourt and CASB entry space defined by a ‘crossroads of connectivity’ to establish an identity for the hospital precinct, provide a meeting place for staff, patients and their carers, and re-engage the wider precinct community.

Even before its official opening this March by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the CASB was honoured with its first major award when announced 2020 Health Project of the Year at the annual Boomtown! Property & Infrastructure Summit. Event organiser Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue (WSLHD) selected the CASB as the standout across social, economic, environmental and architectural aspects of the selection criteria.

WSLHD director of Redevelopment and Infrastructure Matt Sydenham said the award represents a true reflection of the hard work, expertise and commitment to deliver a site of significance for western Sydney.

“It’s a true testament to our partnership on the Westmead Health Precinct,” he said. “Collaboration has been key to this project from the outset — right from initial planning, community consultation, construction through to commissioning.”

The accolade is another reminder of how the CASB has based its groundbreaking design on the powers of connection.

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