Return to Royal Park

Return to Royal Park
Mark BaljakSeptember 12, 2014

Near on seven years ago works officially began on the New Royal Children's Hospital and only now are they drawing to a close with the creation of new parkland on the site of the former Children’s Hospital. An extension of Royal Park, the new parkland project is the highlight of current works in a joint effort between City of Melbourne and the Department of Health.

Dubbed 'Return to Royal Park', the reclaimed parkland was made possible with the demolition of the original cream brick Royal Children's Hospital which began during 2012 upon commissioning of the new facility further north along Flemington Road. Included within current Stage 2 works are an underground car parking complex, Art Series Larwill Studio hotel, staff gymnasium, childcare facilities, consulting suites and retail outlets accessible from Flemington Road.

Return to Royal Park
Then and now; a built form transformation of the former Royal Children's Hospital site

Publicly the standout feature is Return to Royal Park which provides near on four hectares of new public space. Beyond information accumulated via a community feedback campaign, Return to royal Park's design was formulated to factor in the technical, social and natural factors required to make the new parkland a functional success.

Guiding the design principles incorporated into the competition brief for the new RCH was the idea that there are positive therapeutic benefits to patients and staff of contact with natural light and views of vegetation.

As a consequence, where practicable, design considerations have striven to utilize the characteristics associated with natural environments to inject a calmative and inspirational essence into the sterile, artificial, “institutional” attributes necessary to the function of modern hospitals.

Architecture AU

Community inspired principles

  • Create a native park which complements the existing vegetation and landscape character of Royal Park;
  • Build a place which provides passive and active recreation opportunities for all members of the community including children, the elderly and people with a disability;
  • Create a sense of entry to Royal Park that is accessible and welcoming;
  • Design a place for creative and natural play, and
  • Provide appropriate level of amenities to support the park users
Return to Royal Park
Design development plan. Image courtesy City of Melbourne

City of Melbourne's Return to Royal Park document shows seven Wurundjeri seasonal elements included within the design, expected to provide different attractions during different periods of the year. (each of which explained within the document)

To strengthen the connection of the new space to the predominantly indigenous landscape of Royal Park, opportunities have been sought to encourage discovery and a greater knowledge of indigenous Melbourne.

The seasons provide a structure for the various landscape spaces. Each of the seasons will be expressed with plant selections and landscape detail showing relationships between fl ora and fauna, seasonal change, and cultural associations.

Return to Royal Park
Return to Royal Park
Beyond the plaza - a new Royal Park gathering point


It's probably not correct to consider Return to Royal Park a true extension of Royal Park in that it does not continue the minimal intrusion/natural features of the existing parkland. That's not to say the meticulously planned new precinct won't become an immediate drawcard; with so many differing spaces and facilities plus a prominent position, Return to Royal Park looks set te become immediately popular.

The area was slated to open during December 2014, although with the majority of works complete it may well be opened in its entirety earlier than the proposed date.

Mark Baljak

Mark Baljak was a co-founder of He passed away on Thursday 8th of November 2018 after a battle with cancer. He was 37. Mark was a keen traveller, having visited all six permanently-inhabited continents and had a love of craft beer. One of his biggest passions was observing the change that has occurred in Melbourne over the past two decades. In that time he built an enormous library of photos, all taken by him, which tracked the progress of construction on building sites from across metropolitan Melbourne.

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