St Vincent’s former home for trainee nurses gets an exciting new lease on life
Angela Nolan, CEO of St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne and Jaala Pulford, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy at the Aikenhead building site.
Demolition of the Aikenhead Wing at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne is now underway in preparation for construction of the new Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD).
Located on the corner of Victoria Parade and Nicholson St in Fitzroy, the Aikenhead building, which was used as live-in accommodation for the Hospital’s trainee nurses for more than three decades, will be reimagined as a home for medical innovation when the site is transformed for the new ACMD building – Australia’s first, hospital-based biomedical engineering research centre.
Jaala Pulford, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, visited the building site to formally announce this next exciting stage for the ACMD building project.
This new facility will deliver scientific discoveries, create jobs, attract investment and support scientific breakthroughs right here in Victoria,” says Minister Pulford.
Past to present
Officially opened in 1960, the 12-storey Aikenhead Wing included 350 bedrooms, training facilities, a chapel, a dining room, shared bathrooms and laundry facilities. Thousands of nurses lived on-site over this period, including the three years prior to the official opening, while they trained at St Vincent’s.
Initially nurses were required to live at Aikenhead for the three-year duration of their training. However, by the 1970s they were not obliged to reside on-site after their first year of training. When undergraduate nurse education shifted to the tertiary sector in the 1990s, the building was repurposed for Hospital administration and storage.
Barbara Stevens, After Hours Assistant Director of Nursing and Emergency Coordinator at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, lived at Aikenhead as a trainee nurse in 1975.
“I can still clearly remember my first day. I was 17 and my parents dropped me off. Walking down the corridor to my room, I saw others like me, just six weeks out of school. We were all so excited but also a little nervous as it was our first time living away from home,” recalls Barbara.
“I have seen a lot of change while working here for the past 35 years but this is by far one of the most exciting. The new ACMD building will provide us with so many new opportunities to make a difference.”
The $206 million ACMD building co-located at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Fitzroy campus will be constructed within the existing footprint of the Aikenhead Wing.
The main building will be taken down floor by floor over a series of weeks, starting from July, and is expected to be fully demolished by mid-November. The low-rise section in the middle of the building will be removed to create a support area for the tower’s demolition.
In keeping with heritage requirements, the front façade and the first 7m of Brenan Hall will be retained to allow the ongoing celebration of the building’s past life.
“We have taken a carefully considered approach in designing the new ACMD building to ensure that it complements its location within a world-heritage precinct,” says ACMD Project Director, Andrew Crettenden. “The well thought-out contemporary design provides an ideal environment that embraces our vision to be forward-thinking world leaders in health, exploring new horizons in research and medtech to help shape bold solutions for chronic illnesses.”
The new building is expected to be completed by the end of 2024 and will offer specialised research, development and engineering areas with advanced capabilities, as well as an education centre.
"Seeing this building transformed in such a positive and life-changing way for our community, and the vast opportunities it will provide to further medical research and fast-track vital health solutions, is something we are extremely proud to be part of," says Angela Nolan, Chief Executive Officer of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.
The project is proudly funded by the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, St Vincent’s Health Australia, ACMD partners and philanthropy.
To learn more about ACMD, visit acmd.org.au.