HQ Toronto Clinic

  • area / size 9,268 sqft
  • Completed 2022
  • Location Toronto, Canada,
  • Type Clinic,
  • Architecture Counsel Inc. designed a space to reflect the value and story of HQ Toronto Clinic in Toronto, Canada.

    HQ Toronto is the first building of its kind in Canada: a modern health centre where all gay/bisexual men, trans, and non-binary (GBTQ) people can receive comprehensive, holistic, person-centered services that support their physical, sexual, mental, emotional, community, spiritual, and social well-being.

    All great designs tell a story. For the Ontario HIV Treatment Network’s new health centre, HQ Toronto, Architecture Counsel was tasked with relating the present-day story of GBTQ people’s health – shifting the narrative which once focused primarily on HIV treatment, towards a more holistic message highlighting concepts of well-being, culture, comfort, community, inclusivity, and positivity.

    In telling this story, our challenge was to create a welcoming, nurturing, and supportive environment that speaks to a community, while addressing the highly specialized program and sophisticated technical and clinical needs befitting a leading-edge health centre. It was crucial to creating highly functional technical spaces – complete with current expectations for accessibility and infection prevention and control – in an environment that felt distinctly un-clinical.

    Our design solution was to create a plan that was flexible, adaptable, and highly convertible, enabling the clinical programs to operate independently from the community, cultural, and event spaces. The program includes a mix of physical and sexual health clinic spaces; an express testing laboratory for HIV and sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections; mental and social health spaces, including private and group counseling rooms; five multi-use rooms that can be converted to accommodate a wide range of activities – teaching, seminars, smudging ceremonies, yoga classes, book clubs, poetry readings, social and celebratory events; and social/communal gathering spaces, including a curated revolving gallery that celebrates GBTQ culture through the medium of art.

    HQ Toronto occupies more than 9,000 square feet on the eighth floor of 790 Bay Street, a modernist heritage building designed in 1959 by the late Peter Dickinson, a celebrated Toronto architect. The original building served as headquarters for the Continental Can Company. Designed in the International Style, it featured a reinforced concrete frame with precast concrete spandrels, horizontal strip windows with a stainless-steel sash, and vertical wall divisions constructed of precast concrete clad in stainless steel.

    To accommodate the project goals of a contemporary, technically advanced health facility, we were required to re-think and transform the space – architecturally, structurally, and mechanically. Typical of its era, the original base building could be aptly characterized as a forest of columns, orthogonal in design. Our challenge was to find a design solution that breaks with the rigid orthogonality of the space with its harsh right angles to a more organic space, obscuring the columns to achieve an open flow, and transforming its harsh angularity into a softer design featuring rounded elements, and circular and semi-circular elements.

    Inspirations from nature and indigenous Canadian culture informed our interior design. The neutral tones of the furnishings and fixtures lend themselves to a calming ambiance, while accentuating the colourful art pieces adorning the walls. A semi-circular front desk crafted from stained white oak greets the visitor in the main entry. Natural wood is used in all the common areas to provide a sense of comfort, warmth, as well as sound attenuation. The strategic use of glazing brings natural light as deeply into the building as possible; in other areas, we employed specialty gallery-like lighting to support the displays of curated community art and installations.

    Prior to the creation of this facility, Toronto was one of the only major North American cities with a large GBTQ population that did not have an integrated health centre to serve their community. Now, Toronto joins the ranks of San Francisco, Boston, and London as one of the leaders in this new model of holistic care.

    Design: Architecture Counsel Inc.
    Design Team: Oliver Beck, Faisal Bashir, Sean March
    Photography: doublespace photography