Leading architecture and design studio Hassell was engaged to design the refit of Level 12 at Block 7 of the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital to house the Herston Biofabrication Institute.

A world-class research and learning centre advancing the progress of biofabrication in the southern hemisphere, Herston Biofabrication Institute is the first facility of its kind in Australia. The multidisciplinary institute, which was opened in 2020 by health minister Yvette D’Ath, is already making great strides in 3D scanning, modelling and printing of medical devices, bone and human tissue.

The inspiration for the new fitout was the element at the heart of the facility's purpose: a human cell.

"Having an old building with a high-tech laboratory and research facility was a big challenge because we were dealing with a fairly basic building structure, and within it, we were creating something unique, contemporary and cutting edge," Carolyn Solley, principal at Hassell explained.

But creating a sophisticated and flexible environment to enable work, research, learning and innovation within a basic structural set-up wasn't the only challenge. The space needed to be inviting, pleasant and domestic in its visual expression to ensure that the patients, employees and students could feel comfortable and at ease.

"The Institute is working on a new type of skin to assist burns patients, alongside the use of virtual reality to assist with pain management," Solley said. "We wanted to create a comforting space for patients who may have been through traumatic experiences."

Given the character of the facility, it was crucial to incorporate resilient products and materials. "When you're dealing with 3D printed material – which can be polymer, metal, tissue, etc. – you need something highly durable, robust, and hygienic," she added.

Terrazzo tiles from Covet International

Covet's Terrazzo tiles enabled Hassell to achieve all of those desired outcomes. Inspired by the hospital building's original terrazzo features, Covet's tiles in 400x400mm and 400x600mm sizes blended the practical appeal of durability, low maintenance and hygiene with an aesthetic that helped bring Hassell's design vision to life.

Describing the appeal of Covet's Terrazzo floor tiles, Solley said, "The Covet Acier LMP Terrazzo perfectly represents human cells under a microscope with the sort of pink, fleshy tones we used. Alongside the tiles in Alabaster LMPB, Covet Terrazzo reinforced the neutrality of patient care and made sure that there's comfort and ease in every part of the fitout."

The two neutral tones of the terrazzo floor – Acier LMP (Spring Blossoms Series) and Alabaster LMPB (Coveted Series) – visually frame the space and create a striking visual effect as they are reflected in the institute's mirrored ceilings, all the while perfectly reinforcing the comforting, healing and regenerative character of this indispensable institution.

Installer: Stone Developments

Fitout: Formula Interiors

Photography: David Chatfield & courtesy of Formula Interiors