Built to encourage a team-oriented, interdisciplinary learning style, George Brown College’s new lakefront campus will give the crowded school nearly 32,000 square metres of breathing space and gather scattered health sciences programs under one roof. The eight-storey, $175-million structure that Stantec Architecture and KPMB Architects are building at Queen’s Quay East and Lower Sherbourne Street will be one of the newest additions to Toronto’s waterfront redevelopment when it is completed a year from now. George Brown president Anne Sado spoke to The Globe’s James Bradshaw about bringing student life to the lake.
Why take George Brown to the waterfront?
We were looking for additional space. We’re in the heart of the city and we don’t have an awful lot of options on our existing St. James or Casa Loma campuses. We had a vision for a new health sciences building that would be purpose-built to support the type of interprofessional education we wanted to offer our students. We had an original plan to build at 200 King Street, but realized that that would probably be limited in space.
How will an interprofessional approach change students’ learning?
It’s necessary because of the trends that we’re seeing in health care. You have to take a look at a patient as a patient, and not as someone to whom all kinds of different professions offer services. We’ve also got an aging population, so health promotion is going to be more and more important. We started introducing concepts of interprofessional education a number of years ago – we have 21 different health professions that we train students in – so how do we make sure students understand their respective scope of practice? How do we make sure they can communicate? Because they work in teams when they get out into the health-care environment.
While interprofessional education was always talked about as the right approach, a lot of people still continued to teach in silos because that’s the way we knew how to do things, and that’s the way a lot of our educational institutions were set up.
How urgent was your need for more space?
It was huge. We have a very large health program, it’s been growing. We do a very large nursing program and we’ve been creating more opportunities to upgrade nurses who had finished their diplomas but now want to finish their bachelor of science in nursing. I think the average nurse’s age is 47, so you know a lot of them are going to be retiring over the next 10 years, so we’re going to need more capacity. Our facilities at Casa Loma were aging.
How will the new building help integrate the rest of the city with the waterfront?
It’s going to be totally open on the main floor – the main floor is public space. It’s going to invite people in, with the location right beside the Sherbourne Common park. [Our neighbours are]excited about having more food options in our building, and they’re excited about more young people using Sugar Beach. It’s not a building that blocks off the waterfront.
Did you envision your campus as part of a larger waterfront plan?
Absolutely. Corus [Entertainment]is already there, and we’re building. The life that students coming and going for so many hours every day is going to bring is very positive. We have our theatre school at the Distillery District, and we hope to be able to do some work with the Pan Am Games village in the future. So I really see that as a continuum. As I see that whole east area of the waterfront developing …
Mayor Rob Ford’s administration has indicated a possible change of plan for the remaining waterfront development. Would that affect you?
It certainly won’t affect our development, because we’re already there. I hope it won’t impact developments that are already under way. The infrastructure like Sherbourne Common, I think, moved forward because of an arm’s-length agency [Waterfront Toronto]supported by all levels of government to take a look at what could be done and what should be done. And it certainly would be a shame to lose that. I think Toronto has reacted in a very positive way to the plans that have been laid out, I think we’re starting to see them come to fruition, and I hope we don’t have a change of heart that changes the momentum.
This interview has been edited and condensed.