Chris O’Brien Lifehouse - Sydney, Australia
TYPE OF FACILITY Cancer center
PROJECT ARCHITECT HDR Rice Daubney
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER Brookfield Multiplex
COMPLETED November 2013
SIZE 430,560 square feet
CONSTRUCTION COST $233 million
COST PER SQUARE FOOT $541
Dr. Chris O’Brien was the founder of the Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute. He died in June 2009 from a brain tumor, but not before using his experience to develop a 96-bed integrated cancertreatment center, where outpatient care, clinical trials, research, education, complementary therapies and psychosocial support for patients could be offered in one place.
The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is a private institution on the campus of the public Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. It was designed by the Australian architectural firm Rice Daubney, which was acquired last October by Omaha, Neb.-based HDR.
“A lot of Chris’ vision was about patient dignity,” said Ronald Hicks, director of health and research for HDR Rice Daubney. “It’s a very special building for me.”
Hicks told of how patients have different reactions when they hear their diagnosis of cancer. Some want to continue talking or take a walk, while others just want to be alone. For the latter group of patients, Hicks said all restrooms in the common areas are singleperson occupancy as a way of offering a needed private space in a busy hospital.
Everything in the facility revolves around a nine-story atrium that fills the facility with natural light and serves as an orientation device, easing navigation between ambulatory services on the bottom floors, support and acutecare services in the middle and inpatient facilities on top. “It truly does stand out,” Design Awards judge Nicholas Tejeda said. “Just about every element is different from anything you’ll find in any other cancer center—even the name itself.”
Awards judge James Bicak agreed, noting that the project reflected a fine “urban response” to its hospital campus location and was full of “small things done to great effect.”
“What I saw was a degree of skill in the execution that seemed to really understand the patient experience for what that facility was designed for,” Bicak said.