As the New Dunedin Hospital progresses, more and more specialist contractors lend their expertise. At the moment, New Zealand architecture firm Warren and Mahoney are playing a huge part in the project.

We caught up with Tessa Kingsbury, Associate Principal and Senior Health Specialist for Warren and Mahoney, for a brief Q and A on her involvement so far.

How long have you worked on hospital design and projects?

Growing up I always wanted to be an Architect and developed an early fixation on design and creativity.
I was also pretty accident prone so hospitals have always been a parallel fascination. 

But to answer your question – I’ve been building hospitals around the world since I was 8. 
Here’s the first hospital I put together while living in Papua New Guinea in the late 70’s – so around 40 years.

What are some of the big projects you’ve worked on previously? 

Over the past 20+ years I’ve worked on some outstanding projects including - the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane, The Mackay Base Hospital in Northern Queensland, the Midland Hospital Redevelopment in Western Australia, the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth and the Robina Hospital expansion near the Gold Coast.

However the largest project I have worked on would be the Centre Hospitalier de l’ Universite de Montreal……aka ‘CHUM’.
CHUM is a $2.2 billion project that commenced in 2010 across two phases. A prominent teaching hospital for the University of Montreal, CHUM occupies three sites covering two city blocks – and is one of the largest hospitals in Canada (are you seeing some similarities?)
Working alongside an international team on a 24 hour project that never slept remains an absolute career highlight. To give you an idea of scale: 

•    180 architects across 15 offices worldwide were involved
•    It rises 22-stories high and has four basement levels
•    Over 5,900 pages of architectural drawings
•    More than 70,000 Room Data Sheets generated using a linked database
•    159 total model files (41 architectural, 9 data, 6 logistics, 77 MEP, 26 structural)
•    334,172sqm across three towers, each 21 stories tall
•    442 examination rooms
•    39 operating theatres
•    772 single-bed patient rooms
•    10,000-plus employees and 6,000 students and interns

What are some of the challenges unique to health facility architecture? 

I’ve been working in health architecture for most of my career and I simply don’t know of any other building or project type that has a comparable level of complexity or the sheer number of stakeholders per square metre. Health care services are a diverse mix of specific but inter-dependent services and so wrapping a ‘wellness skin’ around them is a fabulously challenging undertaking. My personal commitment is always to engage and remain connected with those who represent the future occupants – to make sure they are heard and to provide a platform for meaningful contribution. Not only does this world class hospital need to attract and retain world leading clinicians – it will need to foster and enable wellness journeys for every patient, be open and welcoming to Whanau and visitors and to honour the hundreds of staff that will work within it. 

But speaking of challenges - COVID 19 certainly threatened to derail us but that disruptive cloud didn’t linger long and quickly yielded a silver lining. Video conferencing has been our rainbow and is being used to facilitate the majority of project meetings, providing further reach and greater inclusion. Less travel time across a large team has meant more time spent on progress and production as we all rapidly transformed ourselves into clever little glowing squares, beaming out from hundreds of screens across the country and the Tasman.

The resilience and tenacity that the wider team demonstrated in embracing the situation we found ourselves in and applying a relatively new kind of connection with the client and stakeholder group was awesome.

But in short, I have always found enormous reward in contributing to these projects – they challenge and fascinate me as much today as ever before.

Models of care change rapidly within health, how do you plan for these changes within a new facility? 

Ohhhhh good question! This is a constant challenge - especially for these larger projects with longer delivery programmes. It’s critical that the design team and the clinical representatives work together to shine a light on any potential developments or shifts in patient care. We need to be versatile and responsive so that we’re able to assess and integrate any changes that add value to the delivery of future health services.

As a project team we need to keep pace with a whole range of technical and digital developments in order to get these hospitals up and operational – but we also need to remain agile and responsive so that we truly do deliver a world-class hospital for Dunedin. It is almost inevitable that our design team will need to stay versatile and responsive so that new models of care can be incorporated without either derailing the project or disrupting the momentum. Consequently we now see a greater call for more flexible spaces and the need to identify opportunities for service expansion zones – a real lifecycle focus.

What excites you most about your work on the New Dunedin Hospital Project?

I have always been genuinely passionate about my commitment and contribution to health projects. These projects provide us with such a wonderful opportunity and I’m always energised to see the project community form. We have an outstanding team of superstars who are already working incredibly hard to make this a stand-out facility. I’m tickled pink and incredibly honoured to be an integral part of an incredibly capable team as we craft this from the essence of Dunedin and for the people of Otago. 

And finally, you're not from Dunedin originally - but you've found yourself spending a lot of time here for the project. Have you made any cool Dunedin discoveries? 

I was born in a little cottage hospital in beautiful Fairlie and having travelled and lived around the world – I now feel closer to home than ever. I’ll be relocating to Dunedin in the coming weeks and like an impatient child, I simply cannot wait. I love this city, I love its personality, I love the academic flavour, the history, the culture and yes, I even love the climate. 

I have to admit that I’ve been stalking Dunedin for a few years now and have made truckloads of discoveries - the metro cinema  is brilliant and Dunedin is a fantastic gateway to some stunning locations and attractions – so bring on the weekends!  

And lastly I’m also bit of a foodie and have found some super tasty gems (Etrusco is GOLD – Emerson’s is FAB-uliscious) – oh and don’t even get me started on the second hand shops! Let me at them! 


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