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Peddle Thorp | Beyond the Brief

Designing healthcare facilities that respect and reflect indigenous cultures

30 July 2019

We are delighted to soon be hosting a healthcare forum with guest speaker Dr Timothy O’Rourke, a Senior Lecturer from the University of Queensland’s School of Architecture. Dr O’Rourke will share insights from his research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s perceptions and experience of different physical settings within hospitals and clinics.


Our practice is committed to promoting culturally sensitive design for healthcare facilities. Nowhere is this more evident than within our Cairns Office. Architect and Head of Far North Queensland (FNQ) operations, Paul Whittle, recalls his work on a healthcare facility in Bentinck Island, in the Gulf of Carpentaria: “We undertook a period of design consultation with local residents gathered under a tree”.


“Determining a suitable location for the building, that did not have cultural significance, maximising sea breezes, along with proximity to the runway, were all key considerations for the local people,” Paul explains.


For more than a decade, Paul has lived and worked in FNQ. “In my view, the most successful design outcomes take time,” he says. “For example, consultation may take a little longer than some mainland operators might expect. Locals prefer to deeply consider the approach, consult with each other, and then deliver their ideas and feedback in a well-considered manner.”


Back in Brisbane, Peddle Thorp’s Senior Executive (Interior Architecture) Caroline Yuen — who is facilitating the healthcare forum — appreciates Paul’s approach and flexibility. “As architects, there is always a danger of imposing a design on the land and on the people who inhabit that land,” Caroline says. “However, our goal is to take a step back, to listen to indigenous peoples and consult with them in a way that respects their particular ethos.”


Caroline’s design m.o is reflected in the way in which she has branded the forum — ‘beyond the brief’. In her words, the key lies in striking a balance between quantifiable design elements, such as compliance, spatial efficiencies and staffing requirements, and those more intangible or qualitative aspects of a design. “Yes, we want to tick the boxes on our deliverables but, in the case of medical and healthcare facilities, we also strive to invoke a feeling of comfort and ease for indigenous and non-indigenous patients, families and staff.”


To learn more about designing culturally sensitive healthcare projects, contact PEDDLE THORP.