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Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning is the largest high-rise research facility in Canada

The new Hospital for Sick Children research building fronts onto Toronto’s Bay Street and takes up an entire city block. The $400-million, 21-storey tower, scheduled to open in September, will offer work space for more than 2,000 Sick Kids pediatric health researchers. br/ The building’s façade is broken up by six undulating glass pods, stacked on top of one another, that jut out over the street. The pods are gathering places in the building’s six multi-storey “neighbourhoods,” each one devoted to a different field of study.

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The building’s open concepts were part of Diamond Schmitt Architects’ response to Sick Kids’ request for open and collaborative spaces within the tower. “The biggest challenge with this building was creating spaces that invited interaction and collaboration among colleagues,” said firm principal Donald Schmitt, noting that tall towers are often faulted for simply whisking residents to their floor in an elevator, without offering organic meeting places.

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Curving stairways link themed research “neighbourhoods” in the Sick Kids building. The internal staircases meant the architects could reduce the number of elevators needed – from eight to six – and save valuable interior space for the researchers’ technical equipment.

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The lead funder of the new building is Peter Gilgan, CEO of Mattamy Homes, who donated $40-million. Through a combination of long-term borrowing, grants and donations, the hospital is just shy of its $400-million goal and even expects the project to come in slightly under budget.

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The building’s private offices are earmarked for senior researchers and are located away from the glass walls, reserving views from the perimeter of the building for junior researchers. Like many modern workplaces, the tower offers “hot desking” – workers do not have permanent desks and anyone can sit anywhere – as a way to make the space more flexible and encourage researchers to interact and cross-pollinate once again.

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Other key places for collaboration among Sick Kids researchers, who are currently housed in various sites throughout downtown Toronto’s Discovery District, are the laboratories. Taking up the entire length of the front and back of the tower, on 17 floors, the gleaming white labs boast 3-metre-high 10-foot-high ceilings, full-length windows and highly configurable benches at which to work – a far cry from traditional cramped and airless, artificially lit research spaces.

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