OHM 2013: Royal Melbourne Hospital tunnels & helipad

Over the past weekend, Open House Melbourne drew many people out of their winter hibernation and onto the streets to view the various public and private buildings which threw their doors open. Having read many reviews in previous years on the the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) tunnels, I was pleasantly surprised to find the helipad was also open to the public this year.

Registration was required before the tour began and everyone who registered was asked to go to the exhibition in an adjacent room, where there was an informative journey of the hospital's past and future.

Of particular interest were the original blueprints.

Blueprints in the RMH history and future exhibition

The tour begun at the base of the lift core, where the original tunnels underneath the first building form a simple cross emanating from the basement level lift doors. The tour then proceeded into a void just underneath the new entrance to the Hospital built last decade, where we learnt about the on-site electricity generation capacity for the hospital should the standard power grid fail.

Interesting tidbit: the grid you walk over on the main ramp (into the new entrance) has an enlarged skylight overhanging; not for natural light penetration, but so a large crane could eventually be positioned over it, should the powers that be ever need to remove the diesel generators from the void below.

The tour then proceeded to the newer outer ring of tunnels built to better service the hospital as it has been expanded over the years. At this point, it suddenly dawned on me as to the reason why so many hospitals are clustered in southern Parkville: RMH provides multiple services like medical oxygen and steam for heating to adjacent buildings, including parts of the University of Melbourne. The former Royal Children's site (next to the new building) used to also be serviced by the facilities at RMH via another tunnel, an impressive feat given the RMH and former RCH sites are 1km apart! The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre will also be served in part by RMH.

Roaming under Flemington Road's footpath

The tunnel tour ended at a 2nd generator house on Flemington Road, next to the new road built to service the Royal Women's Hospital.

From there participants were invited to walk back, on the surface, to the main entrance of the RMH and then head up to the helipad. It wasn't in active use on the day thanks to maintenance work being carried out, however members of the public were allowed up there to witness the fantastic views.

Straight down the guts: view of the centre of the CBD from the RMH Helipad
Cordons on the helipad

All in all, if you haven't done it as part of any previous Open House Melbourne, I highly recommend doing it next year.

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