Heritage-listed Old Police Hospital born again

September 15 / 166

Ground floor of the two-storey glass curtain wall extension. Photographer: Ben Hosking.
Ground floor of the two-storey glass curtain wall extension. Photographer: Ben Hosking.


The former Victoria Police Hospital, established in 1914 on the corner of St Kilda Road and Southbank Boulevard, was officially re-opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis last month, after a year-long refurbishment.


The heritage-listed “Old Police Hospital”, as it is now called, part of the University’s Southbank campus, will house the Dean’s office and administrative units.


The building, which now has meeting rooms with such names as The Dispensary and The Operating Theatre, has become a bright, open space, with all areas having access to natural light.


The former Victoria Police Hospital, which operated as a hospital for some 65 years from 1914, was not only the first police hospital in Victoria, but is believed to be the first in the world.


Used as a military hospital during the First World War, it was extended to serve the public during the Spanish influenza outbreak, with the police resuming control of the site in 1920.


Its design was based on the pavilion principle, which expressed the late 19th and early 20th century attitudes to hospital design. Intended to provide ample sunlight and ventilation for the convalescing patients, it also included a two-levelled verandah on the north and south elevations.


The police transferred their hospital to a new building nearby in 1980 and the site was taken over by the VCA, which had commenced occupation of the former Police Depot from 1973.


The building was subsequently converted to a print-making school and employed as such until 1992. Since then it had been used for offices and storage.


For Luke Flanagan, project manager at the site since the beginning of 2013, the greatest challenge of any heritage project is getting the balance between retaining the original fabric, working within the heritage restraints set by Heritage Victoria, and achieving an acceptable standard with the functional and aesthetic requirements of the space.


“There’s always conflict and tension there. Every heritage building has its own characteristics and qualities and the trick is to exploit, amplify and take advantage of them – while at the same time ensuring any interventions or additions are made sensitively,” Mr Flanagan said.


Architect Louise Goodman believes the success of the project has been in stripping back the building to its original plan.


“This allows the elegance of the new forms and materials of the building additions, which have a beauty in their own right, to complement the existing brickwork and proportions of the original hospital,” she says.


For a longer version of this story, including a discussion of architectural features and more images, please see here.


Story by Alix Bromley

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