THE REVEAL: THE MATER SPECIAL CARE NURSERY

With the opening of The Poche Van Norton Special Care Nursery at Sydney's Mater Hospital last week, we can finally reveal the extraordinary interior spaces and the inspiration behind our design.

The brief was to create a world-class facility that nurtures newborn babies as well as their parents. In an Australian first, the facility comprises individual rooms where the tiniest patients can be cared for in a private environment. 

Our approach to the Special Care Nursery was to create warm and unique spaces that parents can personalise. Our experience in residential design influenced our careful selection of colours, materials and furniture not often seen in healthcare environments, in order to add a sense of 'home', comfort and security. 

Beyond a selection of hospital-grade paint colours, we responded with a concept design and a story to create a nurturing space for parents and babies experiencing stress at a highly emotional time in their lives.

Extensive research had led to the conclusion that nature heals, so the seed was planted for a concept brief of a 'Tree of Life' with the idea being that the strength from the tree would ground visitors immediately upon entering the space; it's roots firmly planted for all to lean on. The design story grew in and around the tree and the juxtaposing forces of strength and fragility in nature. 

To complement the tree we introduced a mascot to bring our story to life. We wanted a mascot that could move and watch over the newborn babies, so our 'Little Bird' was born. The 'Little Bird' is a powerful and positive symbol of freedom, lightness and closeness, allowing us to emotionally connect with the space and it's story, which in essence is everyone's story. 

We loved the beautifully apt lyrics of the song 'Fly Little Bird' by Paul Weller which expresses the fragility and vulnerability of early life, but also emanates the potential for independence and growth and the ultimate aspiration for each of us to fly away from the nest. 

You give the world to me
When you start to breathe
You give the world a dream
When you start to live
So fly little bird, when you fly,
Fly little bird

We identified three zones inside each room or 'nest' - the patient zone, the medical zone and the family zone. It was important that the medical zone stay as clean and clear as possible for safety and efficiency. Conversely, it was our aim for the family zone to be colourful, comfortable and homely with the ability to be personalised. Furthermore, it was important to give parents some control over their immediate environment whilst they were unable to control their baby's situation. 

In collaboration with artist Catherine Cordasco we developed a unique and exclusive identity for the Special Care Nursery. Her simplistic and innocent watercolour illustrations evoked an emotional chord within all of us.

The third floor of the new Mater extension is not only allocated to the Special Care Nursery, but it also houses the General Nursery so we have ensured the journey from one space to the next is sprinkled with glimpses of the theme to help ease the transition for parents.

Finally, to create a great distraction and some fun for everyone, we developed three murals around the theme of the tree and nature, including a beautiful underwater mural which is a nod to the beloved fish tank that resides in the existing maternity wing.

Images 1-6, 8-13, 15-16 via © Alexandra Kidd Design / Photographer Simon Whibread / Image 7 and 14 via Catherine Cordasco

Q&A WITH FRENCH ILLUSTRATOR CATHERINE CORDASCO

I discovered Catherine Cordasco whilst I was browsing one of my favourite apps – Kuvva wallpapers – on my phone. Kuvva is a great, simple app to discover some of the worlds leading designers and illustrators and I’m always excited to see the work of new artists featured each week.

I instantly fell in love with Catherine's very unique and emotive watercolour illustrations, which draw inspiration from nature, animals and flora. Catherine’s illustrations formed part of our inspiration board when we started working on the concept design for the Special Care Nursery at Sydney’s Mater Hospital. The more we developed the design, the more Catherine’s illustrations became perfectly relevant, so we decided to contact her and invite her to come on board the project.

And I am so glad we did! Catherine’s artworks have become the signature of the Special Care Nursery identity and capture the spirit of the space perfectly. From such humble digital beginnings, it’s amazing to see her artwork up close and personal in real life. Speaking of humble, we have also been very lucky for one of the most modest creatives we know, to take time out of her busy schedule for a Q&A with AKD . . .

Cordasco2.jpg

THREE WORDS THAT BEST DESCRIBE YOU?

Most people say that I'm a smiling, funny and enthusiastic person.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE GROWING UP?

I wanted to be an adventurer, such as an oceanographer. I dreamt of a life on a boat defending environmental and animal welfare. The team from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) still makes me dream of this life! I'm truly impressed by their mission and campaigns.

HOW DID YOU EARN YOUR FIRST PAY PACKET?

The very first time I was paid was for work I did as a freelance textile designer. I designed prints for an American label and was very proud! 

BEST LIFE LESSON?

From an artistic point of view, it has been to believe in my work, to be persistent and never distort my style.

YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?

Each project is an achievement I think I can be proud of. People approach me for work because of my style so it's always a pleasure to begin a new story.

The project with Alexandra Kidd Design for the Mater Hospital in Sydney has been a wonderful artistic experience, but also a very humanely and emotional journey. It allowed me to express all of my creativity. Oh, and it was actually the first time I had the opportunity to illustrate on such big walls! 

WHO INSPIRES YOU?

So many artists inspire me every day. Photography, illustration and graphic novels are my predilections. Most of the time, I'm interested in works or moods very different than mine.  I am especially amazed by the photographic work of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. They are both passionate about contemporary ruins. Their book The Ruins of Detroit is absolutely wonderful. The framing, light, composition and tones in their images are beautiful. I also truly appreciate the very different style of British photographer Martin Parr

YOUR BIGGEST VICE?

I'm pretty grouchy! Haha! But a smiling grouchy ;) 

DO YOU FOLLOW TRENDS OR ARE YOU A TRENDSETTER?

In my opinion it would be very pretentious to assume I am a trendsetter! And to follow trends is not really my thing. However, as I'm naturally curious about everything (news, art, society . . .) I think that’s my way of subconsciously following trends. Haha!

WHAT DREAM DO YOU STILL WANT TO FULFILL?

Working on the Special Care Nursery project with Alexandra Kidd Design was truly inspiring because right at the centre of it all was such a human story. I would love to collaborate with some associations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) because I also care deeply about animal welfare. 

WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WORKING WITH ALEXANDRA KIDD DESIGN?

Firstly, it was great working with Interior Designer Jessica. I really appreciated the collaborative way she worked with me and also the way she respected my style of work. Again, it has been a wonderful opportunity to fully express my creativity on a large scale. I can't wait to see the images from the photoshoot and the opening, to see the hard work of everyone as an accomplished whole. I also hope to have more opportunities to work again with AKD and Australia, before I come to visit you in Sydney! 

Catherine's illustrations in the Special Care Nursery at Sydney's Mater Hospital.

Catherine's illustrations in the Special Care Nursery at Sydney's Mater Hospital.

Catherine's illustrations in the 'nest' hospital rooms.

Catherine's illustrations in the 'nest' hospital rooms.

Images 1 - 4 via © Catherine Cordasco / Images 5 & 6 via © Alexandra Kidd Design

A CELEBRATION FOR BIG AND SMALL

Not even single digit temperatures could stop us from donning our party frocks to attend the long-awaited opening of The Poche Van Norton Special Care Nursery at Sydney's Mater Hospital last night.

After more than 18 months work, the highly anticipated evening began with our design of the Special Care Nursery being revealed to the public for the first time, as we were invited to attend a VIP tour with the major donors and distinguished guests to talk about our inspiration and story behind the new interiors.

Followed by the official proceedings, Sarah Murdoch (MC) conducted a string of heartfelt presentations and an opening by Dame Marie Bashir AD, CVO that was fit for a queen. The moving words from all the guest speakers addressing the importance and depth of appreciation of the new extension, covered us all like a warm blanket until we made our way to the after party to celebrate the new world-class facilities and toast to the generous individuals who made it all possible.  

It's hard to express in words the overwhelming sense of community and spirit surrounding this project. I will forever be humbled to have played a part in bringing such a long-standing dream of so many to life. The biggest difference between a project like the Special Care Nursery and a residential project is that we had to create a space that suited not just one client or family, but many families. It was wonderful to meet so many of them at this joyous celebration for all, big and small.  

See more images of the Special Care Nursery interiors and read about the design story here.