Seneca’s new health centre design puts Indigenous concepts at the forefront

Seneca Polytechnic is embarking on a multi-million-dollar capital project to develop a health and wellness complex that is infused with Indigenous design, sustainability, and inclusion on its Newnham campus. Rendering by Tango Studio.

Seneca Polytechnic is embarking on a multimillion-dollar capital project to develop a health and wellness complex that is infused with Indigenous design, sustainability, and inclusion on its Newnham campus in Toronto.

Drawing inspiration from the Indigenous medicine wheel, the Health and Wellness Centre will be a destination for students and employees to support their physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as spiritual wellness.

On the pre-design of the building, Seneca is working with DIALOG and the Indigenous design firm, Two Row Architect, to incorporate Indigenous architectural form.

Seneca’s vision is to transform the decades-old Sport Centre at the east end of the Newnham Campus into a dynamic multi-storey health and wellness complex that includes traditional medicines, counselling, recreation, and varsity sports facilities. The centre will also incorporate a new home for the Seneca Student Federation (SSF).

The circular shape of the design references the drum circle. The drum circle symbolizes balance, equality, wholeness, and connection. At the centre of the complex, the drum circle represents a source of positive energy, bringing with it a natural rhythm to the world around it.

Landscaped outdoor space surrounding the centre will provide opportunities to engage with nature. Highlights include a central drum courtyard with fire pit, an extensive arrangement of native plants and trees, a regenerative forest, earth mounds, and a teaching and leisure rooftop terrace.

Affirming the commitment to being sustainable, a multitude of green building practices will be incorporated, including mass timber, rainwater harvesting, solar energy, geothermal energy, renewable building materials, green roofing, alongside designing for resilience and operational sustainability.

Subject to approval by the provincial government, demolition of the current facilities is slated for winter this year, with completion estimated in 2026.

“The outcome of this circular design signifying a drum demonstrates that the Centre will provide a holistic healing approach within the lives of the students based on Indigenous ways of seeing, understanding, and being in the world that extends beyond the mere act of drumming. Many teachings across Turtle Island use the circle to represent balance and equality, wholeness, and connection,” says Erik Skouris, design lead from Two Row Architecture. “All programs radiate from this centre and have a special and direct connection to it. The drum voices our connection to all creation when we move and strengthens our bonds to each other when we drum together.”

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