Woods Bagot's Telethon Kids Institute Sets a New Standard for Activity-based Workplaces

Woods Bagot's Telethon Kids Institute Sets a New Standard for Activity-based Workplaces

Woods Bagot has designed the newly opened Telethon Kids Institute within the new Perth Children's Hospital. The design of the new facility is aligned to its vision to bring together researchers, practitioners, policymakers and sponsors across Western Australia with a common aim to improve the health and wellbeing of children.

According to Telethon Kids' director, Professor Jonathan Carapetis, the institute's research potential has been improved by the design quality of their new workspaces. "Specifically tailored for the activities and interactions of our people, our new workspaces give us the greatest opportunity to do the very best research," Carapetis said.

The new home of Telethon Kids is significantly larger than its former. Occupying several floors of the Perth Children's Hospital, it comprises some 7000m2 of workplace, 2000m2 of wet labs and 1000m2 of bio resources space, including state-of-the-art laboratories and workspace; four trial suites; and cryogenics facility.

Telethon Kids has a range of specialized expertise, tools, platforms and technology to undertake cutting-edge science. In designing the new workplace for its 600 staff and students, Woods Bagot has addressed the complex and technically sophisticated health and safety requirements, long-term flexibility and adaptability needs, energy use intensity, and environmental impacts.

In establishing a narrative for the project, the design team compared spatial relationships of the facility to that of human biology systems. Subtle cues from the human body were introduced into the design which are at times literal in form and at others a reference to its function.

Woods Bagot workplace design leader Stirling Fletcher said that while the concept is "arguably clichéd it imparts the playfulness of the Telethon brand."

Upon arrival visitors enter the 'heart' of the facility. Collaborative engagement points create a warm and inviting feeling at every entry point. "It was important to create an entry experience that offered visual connectivity to partners including research families and donors," Fletcher explained.

The workplace areas have been developed around the principle of activity-based working and provide employees with a diversity of settings to conduct specific tasks including learning, focusing, collaborating and socializing. Described as the 'lungs,' every space within the workplace has been designed with lines of sight to the atrium to introduce natural light and air to 'breathe.'

Allowing for expansion and aptly named the 'cells' the open workplace provides the staff flexibility for working with different research groups or project teams. "The modularity of work settings and patterning mimics the cellular activity of division and growth. In keeping with a contemporary workplace it was paramount for all staff to be given difference in likeness supported by focus points as a departure from traditional offices," Fletcher said.

Punctuated throughout the open environment the 'eyes' are visually stimulating meeting spaces. The 'ears' evolved as acoustically sensitive quiet zones providing respite and focus. As a backbone the 'spine' provides structure and support to the open plan workplace, which is further enforced through its materiality and diversity of enclosed meeting places.

The 'mouth' as a vertically connected café provides a point of cross pollination through conversation and nourishment and is a focal gathering point for people within the Institute and the broader community.

Both the wet lab areas and bio resources facility have been designed and constructed to a PC2 standard. The wet lab areas contain large open plan lab spaces, microscopy rooms, freezer farms and speciality suites to conduct specific experiments.

The laboratory and research spaces are referred to as the 'brain.' Woods Bagot senior associate Suresh Dhillon, who led the design of the laboratory and research spaces, said the 'brain' is the centre of knowledge and discovery and contains critical functions that drive the rest of the fit-out.

"The laboratories have been designed to provide an inspiring workplace for researchers with light, open and flexibles spaces that are visually connected to the surrounds," Dhillon said. "The level of flexibility that has been built into the modular design enables the research spaces to be easily adapted to meet the Institute's future research needs."

The inclusion of a highly visible 'demonstration lab' also enables the Institute to showcase its research to the wider community.

Photography: Dion Robeson

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