Designed by HDR Rice Daubney—HDR’s Sydney design studio—the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is the first fully integrated comprehensive cancer center in Sydney. The project is the realization of the vision of the late Chris O’Brien, a high-profile oncologist, who used his personal battle with a malignant brain tumor to reimagine the cancer patient experience.
Conceptually the building needed to be experienced enclosing without being introverted or intimidating. The design re-examines the notion of transparency within a clinical setting by maximizing the use of screen glass facades and by providing subtle glimpses of the interior from the public domain.
The exterior of the building is sheathed in a composition of louvers, perforated metal panels and fritted glass. These elements serve both functional and aesthetic purposes, providing privacy to those receiving care, shading the strong Sydney sunlight, and transforming natural light into a dynamic interior design element. The pattern seen on the perforated metal screens is based on the Braille text for “Lifehouse,” and is repeated in various elements in the building on interior ceiling tiles and wall panels. Further articulating the exterior is a series of vertical glazed slots that define building volumes and provide glimpses of the activity within.
The interior spaces are organized around a 9 level central atrium through which all public vertical circulation occurs. Glass elevators rise from ambulatory spaces on the lower floors, past acute care and research areas in the middle, to the upper floors accommodating the inpatient units. Of the 96 patient rooms, 60 percent have private external terraces, and all have views of landscaped gardens and downtown Sydney. The facility includes a comprehensive range of parallel therapies including massage, yoga, and Qi Gong as well as psychological support. In addition the Lifehouse Living Room provides patients and families with information and support in a non-clinical environment.