It is a new building for the Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health (SAMIH) on the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus (UTSC). SAMIH is located at the intersection of Morningside Avenue and the Military Trail, which will become car-free in the future.
The building combines laboratories, classrooms and office space for the university with more public functions, such as a psychology practice, pharmacy and café. While students and employees use the spaces for study, education and research, local residents can receive information and psychological care here, or meet each other. The collective spaces have therefore been designed with great care and attention. In this way, the university and community are better connected.
The public facilities are located on either side of a five-storey transparent atrium. It seems as if the building has been broken open here in a playful way. The atrium gives SAMIH a clear layout, with offices and lecture rooms on the west side and laboratories on the east side. Both sides of the building are visually and physically connected by, among other things, walkways and there are places to stay on different floors. The café and meeting places on the ground floor give the building a social and open character. The atrium is therefore the eye-catcher and should contribute to the intended liveliness. It is also connected to a future new light rail station via new routes across campus.
According to Nathalie de Vries, the requested multifunctional program was an inspiring starting point: ‘A university building that is also intended for people from the neighborhood deserves a building that celebrates and shows that mix’. In addition, SAMIH’s design is also focused on health. Not only through the program of healthcare education, medical education, research and care for patients, but also in the design and the materials chosen. Don Schmitt, director of Diamond Schmitt: ‘Our vision is about creating a community between students, teachers and those who use the building, but also with the social and natural environment of the university.’
On an urban planning level, the design responds to Toronto’s distinctive, canyon-like landscape. The green and rocky landscape of nearby Morningside Park and Ellesmere Ravine continues along Morningside Avenue and ends with the landscape around and within the building. According to the architects, the design can be seen as a split rock through which nature finds its way. Landscape architect Vertechs Design designed the greenery both outside and inside. Native plants form the basis. Combined with a lot of wood, these elements determine the tone and atmosphere in the interior. The graphic motif in the floor of the atrium is inspired by the movement of water. This also reinforces the idea of a landscape that extends into the atrium.
Cool gray tones predominate in the facade, providing contrasts with the interior and surroundings. A large part of the facade surface also consists of integrated solar panels. In combination with panels on the roof, these will contribute to the supply of renewable energy. SAMIH’s supporting structure is based on a 9.6 meter steel grid, which allows a flexible layout of the laboratory spaces. This flexibility extends the lifespan and makes the building more sustainable. Spaces can be adapted more easily and with less environmental impact.
Diamond Schmitt and MVRDV designed SAMIH in collaboration with contractor EllisDon.