The Residential Wing

The Residential Wing of the Royal Adelaide Hospital was built in 1968-1969. It was built to house nurses undertaking their training, and was planned as part of the broader 1960s redevelopment of the hospital.

The Residential Wing in 1972 showing the north facing frontage of the building. From a special commemorative booklet published by the South Australian Hospitals Department, from original photograph taken by AJ Smith, RAH Clinical Photographer.

The building was designed by Public Buildings Department architects H Malkin and Stanley Ralph (the Assistant Director of Planning and Design). It was an eleven storey building, made up of two wings radiating in a slight ‘V’ shape from the central lift and stair core. It was constructed using lift slab floors with steel and concrete framing, and externally clad in brickwork.

Internally the main section of the building was fit out with, sheet vinyl flooring, with some carpeted areas and terrazzo in the wet areas and on the staircase. Most walls had either, fairfaced concrete, vinyl dado or plaster. All the timberwork had a stained walnut polished finish.

Most of the main floors had a total of 49 nurses bedrooms, 25 in the eastern wing and 24 on the western wing, with bathroom and laundry facilities in each wing. In the central core was a lounge, pantry/kitchen and reading room with access to a balcony. The building also included a chapel, a large recreation room, as well as other amenities and services.

The new Hospital Chapel during the dedication service. The Chapel was located on the ground floor at the western end of the Residential Wing. 1969.

The building was completed in late 1969 and was officially opened on 17 June 1970. Nurses moved from their previous accommodation scattered around locations such as the Margaret Graham Nurses Home, ‘Eden Park’ and Austral House (Ayers House).

A few years after opening, the rules mandating nurses live on site during training was lifted, with many nurses choosing to live offsite.

Over the proceeding years, the Residential Wing or ‘Resi Wing’ as it was colloquially known was used for a variety of purposes. This included as a hotel and emergency housing for families of patients in the hospital, student accommodation for the nearby universities, a childcare centre, and office space – including the RAH Heritage Office.

One of the hospital staff that remembers the building well in it’s later years is Linda Branson who worked in the reception of the Residential Wing for 11 years.

My job was to greet the new patients and relatives that were coming in to stay at the Residential Wing while the patients were in hospital. Mainly from country areas and interstate. We also had a lot of international students staying there as well.  I used to have to take the rent money from the students and allocate where they had to go to and greet all the people that came through.  I also did the banking and as the years went on I was teaching all the other new receptionists the work as well.

Linda Branson
Residential Wing, Guest Room, 2013.

Speaking of the student accommodation and hotel aspects of the residential wing, she remembers:

The Residential Wing consisted of five floors of single rooms. They were a few double rooms and probably two twin rooms.  So, most of the time it was single rooms, consisting of a bed, a wardrobe and a desk and a chair. They all had shared bathrooms and they had a shared kitchen, a shared lounge area that they all used.  So most of the students … we had one floor that was just purely for female students, for the girls that might have felt a bit uncomfortable sharing with boys.

Linda Branson
Residential Wing, Communal Bathroom, 2013.

She also remembers perhaps the last nurse to live in at the Resi wing:

You had one nursing staff who used to live in the building from Monday to Friday. She came from Clare area, so she stayed up on level 12. So, she paid a minimal amount for her weekly accommodation.

Linda Branson
Residential Wing, Communal Lounge Area, 2013.

And the longest staying resident:

We did have one student who was Australian, who must have been the only Australian student there and he was there for a record of about 17, 18 years.  He lived in the Residential Wing.

Linda Branson

When the Royal Adelaide Hospital moved sites, the Residential Wing was slowly emptied and in late 2021 the building was demolished, being one of the last buildings initially scheduled for demolition to be removed from the site.

‘Going, going, almost gone’ – What remained of the Residential Wing as of 21 September 2021, showing the central lift well.

While its initial purpose as a nurses home was short lived, its legacy endures in the fond memories of those that lived and worked in the building.

Written by Jonathan Hull, CALHN Health Museum.