Connecting rehabilitative healthcare to natural surroundings

The St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital ambulatory care centre project consists of a two-storey, 4700-m2 (50,590-sf) addition to the existing hospital on a treed 9.5-ha (23-acre) site in northeast Toronto. Photos courtesy Montgomery Sisam Architects
The St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital ambulatory care centre project consists of a two-storey, 4700-m2 (50,590-sf) addition to the existing hospital on a treed 9.5-ha (23-acre) site in northeast Toronto. Photos courtesy Montgomery Sisam Architects

A state-of-the-art hospital for therapy, St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital–Sunnybrook Health Sciences, was built in northeast Toronto in 2011. The design is part of a vision for the hospital to be at the forefront of rehabilitation care. The hospital also helps to rebuild the lives of adults recovering from serious illness or injury by involving them in individualized rehabilitation programs.

Newly added to the existing facility was an outpatient services facility–John C. and Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre for Ambulatory Care. Designed by Montgomery Sisam Architects and Farrow Partnership, the ambulatory care centre project consists of a two-storey, 4700-m2 (50,590-sf) addition to the existing hospital on a treed 9.5-ha (23-acre) site. The facility was originally owned and operated by the Sisters of St. John the Divine, who purchased the property in the 1930s to build a convalescent hospital with the benefits of rural surroundings. Since then, the city has filled in around the area, but the park-like site has been largely preserved. It is adjacent to a branch of Toronto’s vast ravine system, which has also been preserved and rehabilitated to become a natural ecosystem within the city.

The Ambulatory Care Centre sets an example for a more holistic idea about health including focus on comfort and well-being. The facility is designed to advance St. John’s mission to rebuild the lives of adults recovering from serious illness or injury with a comfortable setting for individualized rehabilitation programs.

The treatment space redevelopment allows the hospital to care for 50,000 outpatient visits annually. The design plan and expansion rejuvenated the facility’s image within the community and integrates the added space within the hospitals surrounding landscape.

Natural daylighting also offers views to the surrounding landscape and decreases the need for interior lighting.
Natural daylighting also offers views to the surrounding landscape and decreases the need for interior lighting.

The $30-million project also houses enhanced ambulatory care and treatment facilities. Design features include:

  • hydrotherapy pool;
  • two therapy gyms
  • expanded inpatient and research facilities;
  • administration space;
  • main entryway with a central canopy-covered entrance;
  • front-of-house waiting areas;
  • accessible parking; and
  • expanded therapy gardens.

The hospital has continued the exploration of creating flexible and adaptable ambulatory space that provides a sustainable layout for health environments.

Single-loaded corridors, with doors on only one side, were placed in an L-shaped arrangement and provide primary concentration along the building’s exterior walls. Natural daylighting also offers views to all occupied areas and decreases the need for interior lighting.

Single-loaded concourses provide views into the therapy court and the landscaped grounds, as well as an ideal setting for patients to regain their mobility. A prominent stair articulates the change in grade from north to south, assisting with wayfinding by creating a visual connection between the two levels. The programmed spaces in this addition are flexible and adaptable, providing a robust approach to ‘future-proofing.’ The overall project also includes a relocation of the loading dock to conceal it from view, as well as the reinstatement of the original entry court, which is on axis with the existing tree-lined entry drive.

A hydrotherapy pool includes ceramic tile, wood, and an acoustic panel ceiling help create a calming, restorative atmosphere.
A hydrotherapy pool includes ceramic tile, wood, and an acoustic panel ceiling help create a calming, restorative atmosphere.

The material palette responds to both the existing building and the natural landscape around it. An ironspot brick that blends well with the existing masonry and creates a good backdrop for the abundant foliage was specified. Wood soffits extend into the interior ceilings, connecting inside and outside spaces. Ceramic tile, wood, and an acoustic panel ceiling help create a calming, restorative atmosphere for the therapeutic pool.

St. John’s provides care focused on physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual needs. This approach provides care and service with a focus on meeting individual needs. The Ambulatory Care Centre addition brings a sense of place to the hospital by reconnecting to its surroundings and reviving the opportunity for nature to play a role in the healing process.

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