Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre at Austin Hospital


  • Jackson Architecture
  • McConnel Smith & Johnson Architects
  • Austin Health
  • Photography by Diana Snape and Tony Miller


Wellness has literally been built into the ONJCWC at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne. The Centre delivers cutting-edge clinical care in a tranquil environment that reduces stress on patients, visitors and staff. Pivotal to its design, the facility offers patients and staff continual access and visual connection to the central courtyard which is gently wrapped by the building facade. The design of the courtyard promotes wellness through restorative offerings of light, air, plants and water course: allowable distractions and a living representation of sustainability for staff and patients and their visitors – seamlessly connecting therapeutic and treatment environments with nature

Key Features


1. The building\’s curvilinear profile reaches out into the landscape, embracing the views of the hills; an “interior” open courtyard sits within the centre. It is not monolithic in form; carefully orchestrated overhanging levels in section and steps in plan accentuate the sense of light and shade to the façade – enlivening and minimizing the overall mass. The material palate moves away from the clinical feel of a traditional hospital to focus on warm, bright colours, to create a sense of lightness and homeliness for the patients and their families.


2. The design of the building is centred on two perpendicular axes that organize the architectural forms and main circulation paths. A north-south axis at level 3 runs from the outpatient corridor in Austin Hospital directly into ONJC&WC main entry foyer and continues through to a new ‘Wellness’ courtyard that addresses the historic Zeltner Hall. This gives a strong visual and physical link between the 2 buildings and draws the central external space into the heart of the centre. A bisecting east-west axis runs past this courtyard, linking Zeltner Hall and ambulance drop off with a 2 storey main entry space overlooking the patient drop off area and beyond to distant views. The intersection of the 2 axes is marked by the main reception and reinforces the main foyer as a special place.


3. The interior of the ONJCWC aims to emphasize patient focus, respect and dignity. A large open foyer with light atrium spaces encourages daylight and visual access to outside gardens. The interiors have a variety of domestic style spaces for the visitor: quiet retreats; family friendly spaces for relaxation; community spaces for public interaction. A healing environment is created with the use of natural materials, connection to landscaped areas and intuitive way finding to minimize anxiety.The interior finishes provide a healthy, productive, safe and healing environment for patients, their families and staff, with materials that are sustainable, have low toxicity and low embodied energy.


4. The maintenance and life cycle of all materials have been considered in conjunction with current Austin hospital requirements.
The public areas use more ‘natural’ materials. Terrazzo, carpet and bamboo flooring and feature walls of stone and timber provide a welcoming, comfortable, non-institutional feel. Pendant and indirect lighting give a more residential impression. The colour palette focuses on natural, soft tones of terracottas, greens and browns. In clinical areas the use of natural style materials and colours is carried through with finishes that are easy to clean and robust. Use of material, colour and light have been carefully considered to extend the relaxed, non-institutional feel of the public areas throughout. The natural colour palette continues through to the clinical areas although with brighter tones to complement higher lighting levels required.


5. The waiting areas are deliberately small, with patients encouraged to relax and have a coffee whilst waiting to be paged for their appointment. In Day Oncology, the treatment areas have been designed so patients can choose to have privacy or chat with fellow patients, looking out onto the calming leaves of the ‘tree of life\’. All the wards and treatment areas have rooms and break-out areas where patients can have therapies such as massage. Display space has been created at the Info Lounge to make it easy for organisations such as the Cancer Council to visit and provide patients, carers and visitors with relevant information and support

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