Client: St. Joseph's Health Centre
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
Completion date: 2016
Diamond Schmitt Architects
St. Joseph's Health Centre
This project involved the renovation of 11,000 square feet of clinical space located within the pediatric floor of St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. Re-purposed areas include the pediatric Just For Kids walk-in clinic (reception/waiting, examination spaces and support space); a six-bed surgical day unit for pre- and post-operative care; a four-bed medical day unit; spaces supporting the existing pediatric inpatient clinic and a series of small renovations to make the child and adolescent mental health space more closely tailored to its users. Artwork and imagery, sculptural shapes and interactive projections support the goal of creating a more child-friendly environment.
Art can play an important role in humanizing a space, especially a clinical one intended for children. The idea of integrating artwork came from the need to think beyond the architectonics of the space and to create a welcoming and engaging space for kids. By collaborating with a professional children's book illustrator and an artist specializing in small-scale haptic environments, the design introduces elements at once familiar and that invite exploration and discovery.
Imagery based on local built and landscape features serve to improve patient way finding and animating and establishing identity for the various clinical spaces. The theme of the space is “Your Community Pediatric Care Centre – Caring for Kids in the Neighbourhood”. Referencing adjacent High Park allowed for artful interpretations of scenes of nature that also serve to reduce the stress and anxiety of the care process.
The desire to occupy patients during wait times created opportunities for discovery that could unfold over several visits as the patient moves from one area to another. Secretive peepholes that reveal kaleidoscopic displays and a large, low-slung, pond-shaped table that is a canvas for constantly changing projected imagery encourage active participation and reward the pursuit with interactive engagement.
The collaboration between the two artists and architects enabled a renewed design thinking on many different scales. This multidisciplinary approach resulted in a more community-focused design as opposed to a top-down imposed scheme. The space needed design thinking that could satisfy many different users and by distributing the tasks amongst various professionals of different backgrounds, the resulting design reflected this collaboration and was more inclusive.
The iterative process of developing themes evolved over meetings with users, fundraisers and clinicians. The central architectural elements were designed to accommodate illustrations and to house installations. Fabricating the art installations was also a collaboration between the artists, fabricators and the architects and closely followed the technical specifications of the architectural elements to ensure space allowances, structural considerations and infection control protocols were being followed.
In certain instances, the artists’ sketches were the generative medium for the definition of project scope, and led to the re-organization of architectural elements to provide a suitable backdrop for illustrations of theme elements. This fluid process made for a fully integrated result with innovative design solutions where, for example, certain illustrations are literally tattooed into architectural elements for durability, to withstand cleaning and became integral pieces of the design.
The Just for Kids Clinic animates its space with volumes and voids that resonate with children and draw them into the space from the moment the elevator doors open onto the reception and waiting area. A large circular hole that improves wayfinding and sightlines doubles as an impromptu slide for one or more children along its smooth surface. The irregular, cloud-shaped pattern in the dropped ceiling echoes the curves of the table beneath, subtly suggestive of the outdoors. In re-casting the department as a children’s place addresses its function and improves the experience for children and families visiting the clinic.