The University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

The Melbourne Oral Health Training and Education Clinic is a revolutionary facility combining modern dentistry teaching and public dental health with a holistic, world-leading approach.

The unique element of this project is that the entire first floor is given over to the Melbourne Dental Clinic for public dental health patients to access, while also facilitating teaching and training for post graduate students in specialist dental fields.

Not only does this give back to the university with practical teaching requirements for its growing student numbers, but also to the broader community through much-needed government subsidised dentistry services.

We started with the original site comprising three separate buildings united into one, a basement carpark, and a brilliant location 180m south of the Royal Melbourne Dental Hospital.

The buildings were hemmed in by laneways to the south, part north facades and frontage to Swanston Street, which meant we were restricted to working within the existing shell.

But this was challenging too, because the interior contained irregular footprints, irregular grid-spaced columns and limited ceiling spaces, making it hard to plan suitable layouts, or run the services required to support tech-heavy spaces.

There was also an existing feasibility study and concept plans in play, which proposed a dental clinic dislocated over two floors.

We took a different approach and started again with a new concept plan.

Our solution was to strip the existing building fit out, move the infrastructure to a rear building shell and create new basement plant rooms, a four-level services lift shaft and lift, fresh amenities, stair and structural alterations.

Crucially, we reworked the interior on the first floor to accommodate all 50 of the clinic’s chairs, avoiding the option to split the clinic over two levels. These works included part-demolishing a structural staircase on the same level to free up valuable space.

We also had to relocate existing carparking in the basement to a dedicated carparking facility offsite, to accommodate various dental plant and equipment, dental gases, a new sub-station and main switch room.

On the ground level, a 50-chair teaching simulation laboratory accommodates undergraduate students, alongside a Virtual Lab where students wear goggles and receive the virtual experience of operating on patients with sound.

The fit out comprises three floors with key zones for each user:

  • Ground floor – Students: 50-chair simulation laboratory, lockers, change rooms, toilets, virtual (MOOG) laboratory, and support spaces, tenancy spaces for cafes and dental support services for radiology.
  • First floor – Public clinic: Government subsidised dental health care and training postgraduate, pre-clinic students in specialist dental fields, also with 50 chairs.
  • Second floor – Staff: Dental cleaning and sterilisation facility, staff amenities and offices

Importantly, the brand-new centre brings all three floors together in a professional, calm and cheerful environment. It was important the design reduce the fear and anxiety many people experience when visiting the dentist, so we focussed on the reception area in particular with soft and warm materials and colours, while reducing the sterile, clinical feel of large scale facilities.

Today, MOHTEC supports students pursing dentistry as a career and is meeting the department’s need to accommodate greater numbers of students.

And by thinking beyond the brief, we have also created a facility that responds to a very real community need to provide public access to high quality, subsidised dental health care.