Women and Newborn Hospital

ARCHITECT Smith Carter Architects and Engineers Incorporated in association with Parkin Architects
LOCATION Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Women and Newborn Hospital will replace the existing Women’s Pavilion at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) campus constructed over 60 years ago. The 173-bed facility has a floor area of 37,000 square metres and is designed with the patient and family in mind. The building is a five-storey structure above one level of underground parking for patient use. An overhead link and underground tunnel connect the new hospital to the campus, linkages required for critical medical support services and connection to the central power plant systems.

There are no significant surrounding buildings that directly inform the design of the new building. The east and south faades will be the public faces of the new hospital. Conceptually, they will be transparent, delicate, well-detailed, and reflective of the women’s health programs contained within. The design intent is to simplify the number of different materials in the building, using products that relate to the existing scale, texture, and character of the neighbourhood. With this in mind, the building will utilize high-performance unitized fritted curtain wall and shingled zinc cladding. Green roofs will reduce rainwater runoff and provide a natural outdoor environment for patient and staff views. A dramatic and welcoming two-storey main entrance and covered dropoff area will occupy the corner of William Avenue and Sherbrook Street. Further, the south faade of the building will have a striking integrated photovoltaic array enclosing a three-storey staff lounge suspended above the entry on levels three to five that will form the architectural signature corner.

Using a public consultation process, three principles were identified to guide the design such that the new building should be a place to serve the unique and diverse health-care needs of women through the life cycle; a place to advance care, through excellence in research and education; and a place that is welcoming, respectful, calming and peaceful. Fundamentally, the design is rooted in the philosophy of patient and family-centred care, environmental sustainability, and accommodation of the many different cultures of Manitoba and downtown Winnipeg.

A central atrium stair orients and guides patients and families to clinic areas. Consolidation and organization of medical services is another important feature of the design. One of the most significant improvements over the existing hospital is the inclusion of a 60-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The site is located at the northeast corner of the HSC campus. In the context of the neighbourhood, this will be an important edge to the campus, as it interfaces with the community and provides an opportunity for the HSC to create a welcoming image for the campus. The critical design interface is oriented towards the residential properties on the north side of Elgin Avenue, and the building massing responds to the West Alexander and Centennial Neighbourhood Plan. The plan requires a landscaped front yard to match the residential zoning, and a tapered faade as the building height increases to preserve sunlight and reduce the scale. The height is also restricted to five storeys, with no vehicular access off Elgin Avenue.

Winnipeg has the largest remaining urban elm forest in North America. This is due to an ongoing unique “banding” program initiated locally when Dutch Elm Disease was first detected on the continent. The canopy created by the elm branches on the neighbourhood streets is striking and precious. This became the design concept for the building faade along Sherbrook Street.

The building is targeting LEED Gold certification and includes plans for 100-percent fresh air in the building, as opposed to recirculated air. Heatwheel technology to reclaim heat and recycled materials from the deconstructed Weston Bakery on site are key sustainable features. Specifically, the most important sustainable criteria will be “indoor environmental quality” which will include air quality, an abundance of natural daylighting, and low VOC-emitting materials, all for the health, comfort and productivity of occupants.

The interior design is feminine, sensitive to the needs of women, warm to the touch and gently exhilarating to the eye. Passive daylighting strategies have been incorporated throughout the building–most significantly through a large atrium that penetrates all floors. A woman’s need for privacy has been addressed by an entrance for new mothers separated from those used by women and families experiencing loss or other potentially devastating health issues.

The building envelope is conceived as a skin, conveying support and enclosure. It is easily maintainable in the context of the severe Winnipeg climate and gritty urban location. Simplicity of design, longevity of materials, and efficient systems are the underlying objectives; the concept of biomimicry is used to design and construct a building that will function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower, a building informed by its eco-region’s native characteristics.

JC: Hospital programs are complex and rigid, which often results in cold and hard objects that relate to neither patient comfort nor context. This project demonstrates that hospital design can be elevated to another level of excellence.

AK: The urban hospital can be the anathema of critical architecture. It is a building type so subservient to its program, the orthodoxy of planning strategies, the relationship between patients and users, and the terrifyingly complex matrix of functional demands, that the normative challenges of compelling space and form often recede in priority and investment. This project delicately and convincingly finds the cracks where moments of excellence can take root. Through careful and compelling manipulation of the ground plane, massing at grade, public space, and urban linkages, it defines a delightful series of moments where the user and the building meet. It is good urbanity and good space acting in concert to engage the user. The project uses equally compelling strategies of transparency/opacity along the faade to animate and define the addition while respecting and clarifying the existing context, creating an identity that balances the complexity of the building with the necessary legibility of the building type. This project takes the urban hospital as an opportunity to redefine its context, and to delight users who are often most in need of it.

JL: This project provoked a very important discussion about how we define “excellence.” The architects of this building took on a very difficult mandate which is to open up the ground floor of the hospital. In doing so, they virtually inverted the type as it is currently designed– which is, typically, hermetic. In addition, they extended their reach to the landscape and made a very open and civic institution. That’s a remarkable achievement.

Client Province of Manitoba/Winnipeg Regional Health Authority/Health Sciences Centre
Architect Team Smith Carter Architects and Engineers Incorporated (Prime Consultant): Scott Stirton, Jim Weselake, Doug Corbett, Jaret Klymchuk, Javier Uribe, Lori Penner, Larry Hamilton, Bhavana Bonde, Ron Pidwerbesky, Donna Todd, Geoff Bulmer, Philip Harms, Tam Nguyen, Clifford Goodwill, Daniel Melendez, Galen Johnson. Parkin Architects (Health-Care Planning and Clinical Areas Design): Lynne Wilson-Orr, Cameron Shantz, Sohail Akhtar, Chantal Trudel, Angelique Lucas-Witte, Jennifer Haliburton, Farima Vahid
Structural Crosier Kilgour and Partners
Mechanical/Electrical SMS Engineering
Landscape/Interiors Smith Carter Architects and Engineers
Architectural Rendering Norm Li AG+I
Photography Smith
Carter Architects and Engineers Inc./David Lipnowski
Area 280,000 ft2
Budget N/A
Completion Fall 2014