Design as Medicine

'Open Ideas' Royal Adelaide Hospital Competition

Design and Masterplan, 2013


Stage Two Shortlist


When the State Government of South Australia announced plans for a competition to redevelop the existing Royal Adelaide Hospital site, we were immediately excited by the scope of possibility in thinking of how design could redefine the City of Adelaide.

Our solution was to create a Centre of Contemporary Culture and Arts, COCCA, that would have three key design moves: introduce a contemporary art gallery and cultural centre to the East End (with subterranean entrance), return a large part of the site back to the Botanic Gardens, including extending the lake, and add a diverse mixed use program to surrounding buildings to activate the precinct. 

Our entry was featured in the competitions 'long list', and aimed to create a new lease of cultural life in the former hospital site. The proposal was pitched as follows:

COCCA (Centre of Contemporary Culture and Arts)

We build upon the avant-garde and bohemian culture of the East End of Adelaide. We call upon the tradition of the Arts and Artisans to inspire and renew the mindset and identity of a city - a place to learn and impart knowledge, to sing and dance, to gather and play, to experiment, attract, exhibit and be immortalised.

We see a casual and populist gathering place for festivity and celebration interacting with the cultural boulevard of North Terrace, university life, the Botanic Gardens and the East End.

We see a place that layers a vibrant and bustling student quarter together with new age co-work University and adjunct Practice workshops, a place that offers historical interpretation of our past and provides for boutique visitor accommodation. A place that houses cultural attractions focused on contemporary and indigenous art and artisans, music and dance ... those missing pieces that identify a regional culturalism and contribute to the vision for a Greater Riverbank Precinct Implementation Plan.

We attract for the contemporary, experimental and emerging rather than the institutional

We see the existing buildings on the site, strong identifiable landmarks, historically, culturally and spiritually. We respect and readapt them as  backdrops to the creation of a new civic and cultural space as a spiritual oasis of inspiration.

Respectful to the past, we hand back a third of the site to the custodianship of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. A challenge is set to create a relevant new age urban landscape for public open space as an extension of the Parklands - all sensitively placed over a sustainably designed subterranean contemporary gallery and concert hall in the tradition of Indigenous and outback shelters.

The master plan caters to a diverse range of programmes.

The master plan caters to a diverse range of programmes.

1: Creating a civic and cultural space

We create a civic and cultural place that embraces the Botanic Gardens, the East End, North Terrace, the Universities and the past emotions of the sites historical use. We see the need for a highly programmed and interactive agenda that promotes across age, culture, seasons, festivals, and day & night.

2: Delivering the best practise in sustainable design

Stainable design is more than being green and - it is also about well being and revitalisation - we propose a biophillic approach to urban design realising the need for affinity, multisensory environments and restoration - capturing the sites past history of healing as a significant spirit of its former life. We contribute to the readaptive use of existing buildings and placing structures underground to enhance sustainable energy practices in regard to thermal performance

3: Enhancing connectivity to the City and the site's context. 

We free up connectivity to all aspects of the site, North Terrace, The Universities, The Botanic Gardens, the East End and proposed paths and connections. We propose a levitation approach to the 1960’s buildings where all lower levels are freed of skin enabling transparency through the site to the Botanic Gardens and back to the East End. Vistas are renewed to the Botanic Gardens in line with the original plans of the 1880’s. The heritage buildings are freed from intervention and strangulation - the Parklands regain its ascendency as the platform for built form rather than the continuous connectivity induced by the past hospitals function.

4: Creating public open space as an extension of the Park Land

We hand back a significant percentage of the site back to the Parklands. The subterranean placement of the gallery and concert hall allows us to reconnect the site back to The Botanic gardens - with the challenge to the Botanic Gardens to contribute a relevant sustainable approach to urban regeneration and vertical landscapes beyond the original formalised Renaissance design principles.

5: Respecting the site's cultural and built heritage through adaptive reuse and innovative new uses. 

We retain both cultural and built heritage, making significant reuse of the 1960’s buildings to frame the formation of sustainable civic and cultural space. We acknowledge the buildings readaptive value acknowledging their skeletal frames - to present the sculptural, modern and contemporary. 

6: Achieving economically viable developments that supports the East End Precinct, the City of Adelaide and South Australia

We propose uses that reflect and compliment the aspirations of the Great Park vision as an educational & cultural destination. Performing arts are an important component of the activation of the civic and cultural space but will not alone reinvigorate the critical mass of activity that is required for its success.

The proposal delivers portional buildings that build upon strategic use principles. It is a vision that necessitates discussion with identified stakeholders and importantly it is adaptive to a myriad of uses.

7: Exploring the relationship with the adjacent university campuses

We do not see the existing heritage buildings as being complimentary to the teaching styles and practices for modern eductaional practice. We instead see promise in their adaptation to student residential accommodation and new age co-work university and adjunct practice workshops that activate the The Central Path of the GRPIP focusing on student street culture - study, eat and play - the after hours life of a student.


The entry was well received and was featured in the competition's "long-list" of entries.

As featured in the competitions 'long list', Tectvs created a new lease of cultural life in the former hospital site

As featured in the competitions 'long list', Tectvs created a new lease of cultural life in the former hospital site