Return to Royal Park

Near on seven years ago works officially began on the New Royal Children's Hospital and only now are they drawing to a close with the creation of new parkland on the site of the former Children’s Hospital. An extension of Royal Park, the new parkland project is the highlight of current works in a joint effort between City of Melbourne and the Department of Health.

Dubbed 'Return to Royal Park', the reclaimed parkland was made possible with the demolition of the original cream brick Royal Children's Hospital which began during 2012 upon commissioning of the new facility further north along Flemington Road. Included within current Stage 2 works are an underground car parking complex, Art Series Larwill Studio hotel, staff gymnasium, childcare facilities, consulting suites and retail outlets accessible from Flemington Road.

Then and now; a built form transformation of the former Royal Children's Hospital site

Publicly the standout feature is Return to Royal Park which provides near on four hectares of new public space. Beyond information accumulated via a community feedback campaign, Return to royal Park's design was formulated to factor in the technical, social and natural factors required to make the new parkland a functional success.

Guiding the design principles incorporated into the competition brief for the new RCH was the idea that there are positive therapeutic benefits to patients and staff of contact with natural light and views of vegetation.

As a consequence, where practicable, design considerations have striven to utilize the characteristics associated with natural environments to inject a calmative and inspirational essence into the sterile, artificial, “institutional” attributes necessary to the function of modern hospitals.

Architecture AU

Community inspired principles

  • Create a native park which complements the existing vegetation and landscape character of Royal Park;
  • Build a place which provides passive and active recreation opportunities for all members of the community including children, the elderly and people with a disability;
  • Create a sense of entry to Royal Park that is accessible and welcoming;
  • Design a place for creative and natural play, and
  • Provide appropriate level of amenities to support the park users
Design development plan. Image courtesy City of Melbourne

City of Melbourne's Return to Royal Park document shows seven Wurundjeri seasonal elements included within the design, expected to provide different attractions during different periods of the year. (each of which explained within the document)

To strengthen the connection of the new space to the predominantly indigenous landscape of Royal Park, opportunities have been sought to encourage discovery and a greater knowledge of indigenous Melbourne.

The seasons provide a structure for the various landscape spaces. Each of the seasons will be expressed with plant selections and landscape detail showing relationships between fl ora and fauna, seasonal change, and cultural associations.

Return to Royal Park
Beyond the plaza - a new Royal Park gathering point


It's probably not correct to consider Return to Royal Park a true extension of Royal Park in that it does not continue the minimal intrusion/natural features of the existing parkland. That's not to say the meticulously planned new precinct won't become an immediate drawcard; with so many differing spaces and facilities plus a prominent position, Return to Royal Park looks set te become immediately popular.

The area was slated to open during December 2014, although with the majority of works complete it may well be opened in its entirety earlier than the proposed date.


Andrew's picture

Starting to look good, they need to plant some mature trees in the area though, give it a kickstart.

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Bilby's picture

Many species of native trees are actually better off planted as tube stock or smaller specimens - mature eucalypts in pots don't transfer to new sites as well as smaller trees, for instance (and also can't be planted bare-rooted like European trees). With a bit of spring rain, they should grow to a couple of metres fairly quickly in any case.

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Riccardo's picture

The hospital is definitely a monument to Bronnie Pikes selfishness. Should have been built in Docklands on spare land, of which there is plenty. And putting it mid way along the park, away from gatehouse cnr, helps no one.

Time to get rid of the aged care campus too. And the juvenile justice. Make this a proper urban forest. This idea that diseases, disordered people are 'redeemed' by facilities in parkland is c19th and wrong. These uses would have been good activation of difficult brown fields sites, or good for country towns. The juvenile justice facility at Malmsbury, a town like that would welcome the employment of more kids up there.

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Marcus W's picture

Following on from what Riccardo said, the 'new' parkland mentioned in this article isn't actually new - it is a replacement for the section excised from Royal Park for the construction of the current Royal Childrens Hospital.

The government says there was no net loss of parkland, but that is debatable:

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