Local resilience, cultural heritage, and increasing community amenity have played a key role in the development of the $207 million Karratha Health Campus in northern Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Designed by Hassell, including landscape architecture, the 13,000-square-metre hospital is the single biggest investment in a public hospital ever undertaken in regional Western Australia.
The new facility, servicing a surrounding population of more than 21,000 people, includes single bedrooms, isolation room, palliative care and maternity beds, an emergency department, ambulatory care centre, a surgical centre, medical imaging, a secure maternity wing and birth suites and a helipad. It also offers expanded facilities for outpatients and telehealth services. Hassell Principal Jeff Menkens said the location posed a particularly interesting challenge for the design due to the harsh environment. “The location has all extremes in weather, from temperature to earthquakes to cyclones to harsh wet seasons. As a result we have designed a hospital that is bulletproof and self-sufficient in terms of essential services.” Jeff said.
“Despite structural requirements for precast concrete, substantial structural steel reinforcement and purpose designed windows with 38 mm thick high performance glass, we have still been able to craft a fine piece of architecture.” he said. A key element of the hospital is the three large internal courtyards that are orientated around the three entries. Each of these generous spaces are designed to function as a lush oasis with a different palate of materials compared to the landscape outside, including mature frangipani trees transplanted from the old Nickol Bay Hospital, paying homage to its heritage.
The external colour palate has also taken inspiration from the surrounding landscape with silver greens and golds, and yellows referencing the eucalyptus, wattle, and cassia shrub. Internally these colours have also been used as a way-finding tool to ease navigation around the hospital. The green defining the southern Ambulatory Care Entry, the gold defining the Main Entry, and blues and greens for the Indian Ocean in the Emergency Entry to the north. Hassell Senior Associate Natalie Busch said the landscape architecture was not only designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but to be culturally significant and have meaning to the local Ngarluma community.
“We conducted consultation with local Aboriginal communities and elders and have used plants such as the Mulla Mulla which is an important ceremonial plant for the Ngarluma people, and we’ve continued to tell these stories across the landscape and in the shelter spaces as well.” Natalie said. “More than this though, it is about celebrating resilience through design. It’s about celebrating the place and the connection to land, and health, for the local community.” she said. Art has also played a major role throughout the hospital where local, interstate, and international artists with a connection to the Pilbara region, were invited to contribute to wayfinding, murals, framed hallway art, and a massive community tile installation. “The community in Karratha is very diverse; there are a lot of people passing through, residents, andthe local indigenous community. So the art strategy also helps celebrate the community in its entirety.” Jeff said.