Completed in 2012, the award-winning Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at Village Family Health was designed by ARK Inc. as a premier facility in Toronto’s Liberty Village.
Relocating a team of mental healthcare professionals away from the support, security and comfort of a large urban hospital is an innovative strategy to both increase patient access to healthcare and to de-stigmatize the delivery of these services. The Village Family Health Team integrates mental health services with primary healthcare programs, functioning as a subsidiary to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Designed by Toronto-based architecture firm ARK Inc., the clinic is an adaptive re-use project that borrows from the building’s industrial history by using loft iconography and juxtaposing it against large murals, challenging the archaic spaces once modeled for mental healthcare.
Mental health is knit into the public realm by extending the local street fabric deep into clinical spaces, exposing and de-mystifying services and increasing access to the outside. Full height glazing facilitates a visual connection to the street and illuminates the clinic’s central axis. Organizing exam rooms to either side of this center line facilitates the visitor’s spatial orientation, ensuring that all circulation is short, circular and anchored back to the public core. The day lit central space and the large scale nature murals – organized by season and colour – create a sequence of engagement from the point of entry.
In addition, they provide a means of intuitive wayfinding, points of interest, a sense of calm and assist in orientation – all of which increases a patient’s sense of independence and comfort. Translucency between the waiting area and boardroom provides a balance between privacy and connection, sending the message that the medical professionals are not inaccessible and separate from the patients. Further, a deep barrier-free access counter allows the reception desktop continue an open connection with patients while still providing personal safety, infection control and data security.
De-stigmatizing the clinical environment while accommodating patient needs is emphasized throughout, as the space is inclusive, barrier-free accessible, easy for patients and staff to navigate, and facilitates face-to-face interactions – creating a safe, secure and positive environment. Completed on-time and on-budget, the project was recognized three times at the 2013 International Academy of Design & Health Awards as ‘Interior Design Award Winner’, ‘Mental Health Design Award - Highly Commended’, and ‘Use of Art in the Patient Environment, Finalist’.