The old Royal Women’s Hospital site occupies almost an entire city block and will be progressively redeveloped. Lab 14 is a pilot project for the Carlton Connect Initiative, an organisation established to nurture new collaborative research into sustainability and IT. It refurbishes a horizontal concrete frame structure, originally designed by Bates Smart McCutcheon with capacity for an additional 6 floors above, and completed in 1975.
The design establishes a ‘base building infrastructure’ that is a robust frame for others to furnish and inhabit. Working closely with the existing building fabric, key moves were made to set up the site for future occupation and growth over a projected ten-year lifespan and potentially beyond; including bringing daylight into the deep hospital floor plate, forming a generous public realm interface and providing direct access to a new roof terrace. Careful cutting and removal of sections of the existing concrete slabs forms a new spatial, atmospheric and circulatory logic. Alongside new lightweight additions such as tensioned balustrades to the void openings, fixtures and fittings were salvaged from the hospital tower, evoking memory through use and touch. The architecture seeks to be open and subtly provocative, encouraging active inhabitation and future modification by its occupants.