First look at 'breathtaking' plans for new €650m children's hospital
Design plans for the new national children's hospital have been unveiled - and it will look strikingly similar to the Aviva stadium.
Planning permission is due to be lodged this summer for the long-awaited project at St James' hospital in Dublin 8.
Minister for Health Leo Varadker described the design for the oval building as "breathtaking".
"It's clear from the open-plan building, the gardens, the sports facilities, and the state-of-the-art wards that this is a unique building," he said.
"This breathtaking design does its job really well."
The hospital will boast a therapeutic roof garden and sports facilities.
It will be seven storeys tall at its highest point - half the height of the building originally proposed at the Mater Hospital site.
Minister Varadker viewed the plans alongside a group of children who will be on hand to advise on the project as it progresses.
The €650m hospital will include 42 beds in critical care unit and 18 neonatal critical care units. All 380 single-patient bedrooms will boast en-suite bathrooms and an overnight bed for parents.
Other family accommodation includes a 60-bed facility near the entrance. It is the country's largest ever health infrastructure project, according to the Minister for Health.
"It's only when you see a model or an artist's impression that you realise just how much work has gone into the project." he said.
"We will all be really proud of this iconic hospital when it's built."
Architects BDP were appointed to lead the design team for the controversial hospital in September 2014.
It is estimated that it will take the development board to navigate the planning process before construction will begin on the site.
The new hospital will amalgamate the three existing children's hospitals and includes two satellite hospitals in Tallaght and Blanchardstown.
The hospital is scheduled to open its doors in 2020.
In 2012, An Bord Pleanala refused planning permission for a 15-storey hospital on Eccles Street in the north inner city on the same site as the Mater.
Planners ruled out the €450m, 400-bed unit amid concerns over its height and size.
Last year it was revealed that the doomed bid to have the hospital located on the site cost the tax payer an estimated €40m, most of which is unlikely to be recovered.
When it was first decided to merge the children's hospitals at Tallaght, Temple Street and Crumlin it was hoped that the new hospital would begin accepting patients in 2015.
Last year, St James' Hospital was selected as the most suitable alternative site for the new health infrastructure.
The CEO of the Children's Hospital Group, Eilish Hardiman, said at the time that all of the children's hospitals had agreed that the site was the best choice.
It is twice the size of the original northside site and has room for further expansion, she said.
However a number of parents and children's charities have said that St James' is unsuitable because it is inaccessible for families travelling from around the country.
The Luas links to the hospital are of no use to parents of sick children who are most likely to travel by car, according to campaigners.
Jonathan Irwin, CEO of the Jack and Jill charity, has been one of the most prominent critics of the plans.
He believes that a state-owned 36-hectare site in Blanchardstown, beside James Connolly Memorial Hospital, would serve as a better location.
Meanwhile, planning permission for the new satellite centre of the new children's hospital in Blanchardstown is set to be lodged in July.
It will be lodged with An Bord Pleanala and the first sod is due to be turned this year in advance of the main hospital opening.
Mairead Lyons, the hospital manager, said it is expected to treat the first children in 2017.
"An out-patient's department will look after 15,000 children," she told the Herald.
A walk-in emergency department or urgent care centre, paediatric out-patient department and children's dentistry are all planned for the site.