Image: Bloorview Exterior RenderingImage: Boy and young woman having fun


Stories: A restful retreat

Construction is underway on Bloorview’s new $100-million facility – a 343,000 square feet L-shaped building. Terry Montgomery, lead architect, describes it as “a unique design with a country atmosphere – a kind of restful retreat within the city.” Sites & Sounds asked Terry, principal at Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc., to elaborate.

How would you describe the design?

Viewed from the back, this model of Bloorview's new building shows the unique sloping roof - part of plans to build low at the front to fit with the residential neighbourhood.

It will give the hospital a new identity because it’s a unique shape that has no precedent. The north-south block has a gently curved, sloping roof that emerged from our negotiations with the neighbours, who wanted us to build low at the front and high at the back. For me, what’s beautiful about this shape is that it’s like a large, south-facing hillside that’s habitable, because within the slope there are terraced gardens dug out of the building, with trellises and landscape that create outdoor areas for programs.

What makes the building remarkable? In addition to its unique form, the design includes a varied palette of materials inside and out. The ground floor is brick – which is a dark, earthen material – and the higher, sloped part is zinc, a soft metal that will take on different colours with changes in weather, giving it an ephemeral quality. We chose that material to play down the building’s height so that the shape would tend to blend in with the colour of the sky.

Another thing that’s remarkable is that the whole interior makes a series of direct connections with the adjacent ravine. On entering the building you have a double-height view of the trees. Most people think of hospitals as endless corridors, antiseptic rooms and lighting that it too bright. Our whole idea was to build a series of evocative places that take on meaning and quality with time and use. Form and texture within the building create a kind of interior geography for wayfinding. For example, the elevator core is clad in wood at every level, so it’s easily distinguished.

Finally, there was a new level of consciousness about accessibility in the design. Consultants reviewed our drawings with only that in mind. We spent a day ourselves maneouvering around the existing hospital in wheelchairs. We took the Americans with Disabilities Act standards as a baseline and went through on a case-by-case basis, allowing for more generous dimensions in many areas that involve transfers. Our elevators have access from the back and front.

What atmosphere were you trying to create for clients and families? We wanted to take a different approach from many hospitals, which have large atriums and a commercial, mall-type atmosphere. We were inspired by the Children’s Inn in Bethesda, MD. We wanted to create a restful, welcoming atmosphere that connects the building with the surrounding ravine, has lots of natural light and is made up of a series of places that have character and personality. We wanted to make sure that families weren’t overwhelmed on entering, but at the same time, we wanted major places like the family resource centre, education centre, cafeteria and swimming pool to be presented in a comfortable, natural sequence.

How will the design make it easier for families to get around?

Most rehab hospitals are built on one floor with too many long corridors. We thought stacking the programs one above the other and relying on a number of ample and easily-accessed elevators would knit everything into close proximity and allow everyone to share the view of the ravine.

To be connected with expert sources, contact:

Louise Kinross, Manager, Communications
Tel: 416-424-3866
Pager: 416-589-8826
E-mail: media at bloorview dot ca

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