An adaptive re-use project transformed Central Hospital into the Sherbourne Health Centre, designed to provide care for the homeless, newcomers to Canada, and the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transsexual, and transgender community. Located in the core of downtown Toronto, the 100,000-square-foot Centre represents a new health care model. Walk-in clinic services and a 24-hour continuous care center are housed under one roof.
“It’s not often you spend time in a design review with this kind of client group,” says IBI Group Director David Hastings. “Nor had they ever spent a lot of time with architects. It was a new experience for everyone to sit there, exchange ideas and listen really hard.”
To meet the needs of the targeted community, non-gendered washrooms were included in the floor plan to serve the sexual-reassignment clientele. An inconspicuous side entrance to the Centre opens to a shower and locker area for homeless clients.
The infirmary is arrayed as a community of hubs. Treatment rooms are arranged in pods of three or four, within sight of the nursing station, maximizing staff efficiency. Four pods contain double or single rooms. The corridors end at a communal lounge with television and an entertainment space.
The architects designed the entry facade to create a sense of transparency and openness; a welcoming reception desk was placed front and center. The interiors group carried the original architectural concept of inclusion and openness to all four floors. Intensive design interviews and exchanges were held with the users who were in agreement that although the materials chosen had to be functionally appropriate, a welcoming atmosphere was important to staff and clients.
The Brutalist facade was economically updated. Existing windows were masked by angled vertical panels rising from slab to slab, making the building look and feel closed off, depriving users of the Allan Gardens view. The architects removed the panels, replaced the windows with energy-efficient glazing, and added a brise soleil of angled horizontal steel fins above each floor to filter daylight. In an architecturally inviting gesture, a long curved steel canopy and sunshade frames the front door.
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