In recognition of Canada's National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Anishnawbe Health Toronto Indigenous Community Health Centre (ICHC) broke ground yesterday on the construction of the new four-storey, 45,000-square-foot facility. Slated for completion in Fall 2022, the centerpiece of Toronto's new Indigenous Hub occupies a prominent location in Toronto's Canary District on the former delta of the Don River, regarded as traditional Indigenous land.
Leading global design firm Stantec collaborated with Indigenous-owned Two Row Architect on the design of the centre, which will unite services from three locations under one roof to centralize and improve access to healthcare for the city's Indigenous communities. The new CAN$33.6 million facility will combine Indigenous and Western approaches, complemented by social and cultural programs, to serve hundreds of Indigenous groups in the Toronto area each year.
The design of the ICHC represents Toronto's Indigenous culture proudly, inspired by key touchstones-the land, natural remedies, traditional healing, sunrise, and woven patterns. The perforated metal façade wraps the building and is inspired by the woven shawls used in ceremonial dances. The 'shawl' opens to the east and to the four-story atrium that organizes the centre's clinical spaces and provides physical and visual connection to the landscape courtyard.
The ground floor will be home to key programs like the ceremonial space, sweat lodge, Traditional Healer, and the community kitchen, each established as standalone pavilions inspired by pebbles in a stream. Art is an important part of storytelling and indigenous culture. The design weaves art into the building fabric through interior glass panels displaying patterns and artwork chosen by the community. The central red staircase is inspired by 'the red road' - an Indigenous metaphor speaking to the idea of making wise and spiritual choices in life.
The central landscaped courtyard, rising 21 feet from street level and accessible from the first and second floor of the ICHC, is unique and emblematic of a land-inspired approach. At the heart of the development, it connects people and place with a walking path surrounded by native plants of tobacco, sage, cedar, and sweetgrass surrounding seven benches that represent the seven grandfather teachings: wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth. Meshed with the path is a meandering bioswale that collects rainwater for irrigation.
'It was an honour to contribute to a new and much-needed layer of Indigenous culture and presence within the urban fabric of the city,' said Michael Moxam, project design principal and design culture practice leader for Stantec. 'With an approach grounded in the land and landscape, the Indigenous Hub will be a unique urban experience in Toronto.'
In addition to the ICHC, the Indigenous Hub Master Plan, developed through years of engagement with the First Nations community and other stakeholders, envisions condominiums and 200 units of rental housing, an education and training facility, a daycare, and the adaptive re-use of the heritage-designated Canary Building. The Hub master plan was designed by Stantec and BDP Quadrangle in consultation with Two Row Architect.
'[The] groundbreaking is a major milestone, years in the making. The site will be a gathering place for the Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and a home to support the reclamation of culture and identity. In fact, this project will advance on many fronts including the restoration of traditional medicines and green space to this block that has an industrial past; implementing architectural guidelines for Indigenous design developed for this project; and to land ownership and lease agreements with development partners that will guide and support the Hub forward for seven generations and more,' said Joe Hester, chief director of Anishnawbe Health Toronto, who has directed this project for more than 20 years.
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