Photo Credit : Peter Bennetts courtesy of Plenary Group and John Gollings


Gold Winner 

Project Overview

The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) Project has delivered a new $1 billion facility purpose-built for cancer research, treatment, education and care in Melbourne’s prestigious Parkville Biomedical Precinct.
Since mid-2016, the VCCC has provided the new home for Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. It also provides new cancer research and clinical services for Melbourne Health, new research facilities for The University of Melbourne and education facilities for all building partners.
The development comprises a new 13-storey building bordering Flemington Road, Grattan Street and Elizabeth Street, and construction of four new floors on top of the existing Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH). The new building and extension to RMH is linked by covered bridges across Grattan Street allowing patients, visitors and staff to move between the buildings.
In addition to the new facilities built, ten world-leading cancer organisations have come together to form the VCCC Alliance to share knowledge and resources and drive the next generation of cancer research, education, treatment and care.
Delivered under a public-private partnership, the Victorian Government contracted the Plenary Health consortium comprising Plenary Group, the Grocon / PCL builder joint venture and facilities manager Honeywell to design, build, finance and maintain the project under a 25-year concession.

Project Commissioner

Plenary Health

Project Creator

Silver Thomas Hanley, DesignInc and McBride Charles Ryan


The Plenary Health consortium is the consortium responsible for financing, designing, constructing and maintaining the facility. The consortium consists of Plenary Group as sponsor, Grocon/PCL as builder, Honeywell as facilities manager and architects Silver Thomas Hanley, DesignInc and McBride Charles Ryan.

Project Brief

The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) is a unique and ambitious endeavour. Its vision – ‘dreaming of a better tomorrow’ – is to save lives and improve survival rates among cancer patients through the integration of cancer research, education and patient care in one combined facility. The VCCC is designed to reflect the particular characteristics, aspirations, and cultural identity of the community and to embody this approach through conveying an aspiration to symbolise hope, health and wellbeing to those touched by cancer. The centre’s focus on innovation and collaboration is reflected in its architecture, where the façades of the building’s disparate activities – in-patient units, same-day medical and allied health (clinical care), research laboratories, the public realm – are merged into a single continuous form.
The architectural strategy relating to large-scale urban gestures (spiralling, wrapping, encompassing), mid-scale programmatic requirements (connectivity, networks, translation), and fine-grained detail at the level of the individual, is reinforced by the articulation of building junctions throughout the VCCC’s façade. These functional necessities are embellished into expressive devices to further accentuate the VCCC’s primary gesture of a generative spiral, elaborating the symbolic gesture and providing a playful complexity in unison with its rational realisation.

Project Innovation/Need

The complex spiralling gesture is expressed materially in glazing with a reflective purple coating; developed specifically for the project, it reflects purple light to the exterior while transmitting no colour cast to the interior. Elsewhere the material realisation combines the solidity of masonry at the lower levels with the transparency of glass above to draw the eye up to where the VCCC appears to dissolve into the sky. These façade types are overlaid with sun shading and fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) forms. This ethereal effect is juxtaposed with the culmination of the spiral gesture to reinforce the integrated nature of the VCCC’s formal configuration.
At the lower levels, the material richness and colonnade expresses the VCCC’s concern for engaging with the public realm. Detail is increased, with textured and patterned perforated metalwork, polished and profiled precast concrete panels, glazed brickwork, and sculpted ‘digitally fabricated’ FRP colonnades. The innovative engagement with industry lead to the fabrication of the colonnade elements directly from 3D digital files was complex. The result is that these elements link the various elements in a language of continuous form and a unified whole that extends through all scales of the enclosure and into the internal public realm.

Design Challenge

The VCCC is located on a key focal point of a primary avenue in the City of Melbourne. Given its location, the form of the building responds as both a ‘Hub’ and a ‘Gateway’; the building form spirals the various building programs together while simultaneously branching out to maximise physical connections across the Parkville Biomedical Precinct. Metaphors of networks, connectivity and spiralling are made manifest from the scale of the building’s massing down to the detailing of the façade and interior elements. The built form has no ‘corners’: beginning at the Haymarket roundabout at the culmination of the Elizabeth Street axis, it spirals and curves up to the completion point on level 13 with views back towards the Melbourne CBD. Spiralling elements of the façade and atrium space ascend and connect operations within the facility, assisting the planning in encouraging collaboration in the areas of education, clinical care, and translational research. This architectural language continues in the connectivity of the bridge links, appearing as they do to stretch out across Grattan Street to reach over to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.


The spiralling gesture of the curved architectural form was tested through engineering analysis to minimise wind effects and assist in self-shading the atrium roof, providing an optimum of daylight in the core of the building without increasing heating or cooling loads. The role that sun shading plays in achieving the VCCC’s energy targets is another core aspect of the design and is evident in the public image of the building. Sun shading is provided throughout and its angle and spacing is determined in accordance with the orientation and viewing requirements of the activities of each façade. The north-facing laboratory clusters, for example, are shaded by closely spaced medium-depth horizontal shades. This limits the direct ingress of solar radiation and minimises the occurrence of direct sunlight on bench tops throughout the year. Deeper fins placed on the diagonal shade the western orientation, providing an optimal response to solar angles and accommodating seasonal variation. In the in-patient units, rolled metal sunshades minimise the ingress of direct sunlight while maintaining the maximum possible outlook.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. 
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