Designed in consortium by Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes and Provencher_Roy, the CHU Sainte-Justine's “Growing Up Healthy” project enables the hospital to more adequately meet the needs of mothers and children with respect to specialized care and services, while supporting research, education, technological advancement and health promotion. The new, roughly 130,000-square-metre construction increases the institution's total surface area by 65% and houses the Special Care Unit, the Research Centre, a new thermal power station, and a four-level underground parking facility.
The seven-storey building is located to the west of the existing hospital and is connected to it via footbridges and underground passages. It is comprised of specialized pediatric and surgery wards, a 14-room surgical unit, a unit for high-risk pregnancies, a labour ward, a pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit, and medical imaging facilities. In terms of research facilities, there are laboratories, units for basic research, classrooms, evaluation-based teaching rooms, lecture halls and two auditoriums (125 and 250 seats, respectively).
“The new infrastructures will enable the 5,000 or so staff members to broaden their human approach by facilitating interaction between the various players of the practice community, whose shared goal is to pursue innovation to benefit the health of mothers and children,” explains Fabrice Brunet, President and CEO of the combined CHUM and CHU Sainte-Justine.
The site's close proximity to the protected area of Mount Royal informed the architects' approach to creating a healthy environment. Based on the concept of “hypernature,” the project makes emphatic use of colours and elements inspired by animals and plants of the boreal forest, with spaces that allow natural light to penetrate and common areas for strolling as well as green paths linking the existing building to the new one.
A signage idiom comprised of roots, bark, branches, foliage and animals steers the user toward the atrium and the public spaces. From the outside, the screen printing on the main facade is deployed like a series of tree trunks, creating a sense of rhythm and continuity. In the atrium, two stacked volumes, like a matrix generating the surrounding spaces, house the two auditoriums and provide a remarkable view onto the outdoor garden. Be it through a tree-girth tape or a trail, the concept makes judicious use of a plant and animal symbolism characteristic of the Mount Royal ecoterritory, making for an environment that is healing for patients and welcoming to their families and the care providers.
“After six years of work, the most successful aspect of this project for us, the architects, is to witness just how quickly users have made the building their own. We are observing the impact a healing, adapted environment can have on the children living in it, on their families, and also on the staff that care for them and support them on a daily basis,” says Joanne Parent, architect and partner at Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes.
Vivid colours and fun symbols abound. Designed to brighten up the day-to-day routines of the children as much as possible, they also serve as functional markers that orient users toward the various departments of the hospital. Works of art and playful objects are harmoniously interspersed throughout the building to stimulate kids' rich imagination. Outdoors, an esplanade, a footpath and playgrounds are accessible. These public spaces play a dominant role in the overall creative approach: they give the project a soul and help eliminate the barriers that so often separate hospitals from their surroundings.
“When we see the twinkle in the eyes of the young patients as they explore the place where they will be living temporarily, we can claim with some pride that our efforts and this project have been successful,” adds Martine Tremblay, architect and partner at Provencher_Roy.