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Bridgepoint Hospital stands high above the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. It will open in April. Health services, however, have been offered on the Bridgepoint site ever since the House of Refuge was established there in 1860. It became one of the first public hospitals in Toronto and in 1869 it helped to contain a smallpox epidemic.Tom Arban

When architects designed Toronto's Bridgepoint Hospital – under construction on the eastern edge of the city's Don River Valley – they had two reasons for making the 472 vertical windows an important visual feature: That's the exact number of beds the new facility will hold; the vertical orientation symbolically represents patients getting back on their feet and into their communities.

"This hospital leads new thinking about the role of hospitals, how they're designed and the features that will aid the rehabilitative and restorative processes that inspire health and wellness," says Marian Walsh, president and chief executive officer of Bridgepoint Health.

To passersby, the sleek, 680,000-square-foot structure is the most visible indication that the four-hectare site is undergoing a massive redevelopment. Besides the construction of the new hospital, which is scheduled to open next April, the project includes the conversion of the 148-year-old Don Jail to Bridgepoint administration offices, demolition of the existing Bridgepoint Hospital and Toronto Jail, new landscaping and roadways. The $1.2-billion project is to be completed in spring 2014.

The new hospital will focus on complex chronic disease and disability care. Patients using the facility are coping with multiple ailments such as diabetes, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions. "We're really focused on the more complex patient who carries a fairly high burden of illness and disability and who spends a lot of time in hospitals and doctors' offices," Ms. Walsh explains.

Fifty-seven per cent of Ontarians older than age 65 live with three or more chronic diseases, according to Bridgepoint Health. And complex continuing-care patients typically stay in hospital for up to three months, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Barrier-free patient rooms, wide corridors, handrails and infection control rooms have been designed with patient safety and comfort in mind. The hospital will have only single and double rooms where private three-piece bathrooms will mean better infection prevention.

All aspects of the new building – from communal dining rooms where patients will take their meals, to an Internet café, spiritual room, rooftop garden, visitor lounges, outside terraces and hairdressing services – have been designed to get patients out of their rooms, and motivated to manage their illnesses and return to their communities.

"The role of family members and other visitors, and the whole social environment for patients is hugely important," explains Greg Colucci, principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects, Toronto, which is the joint architect of record along with HDR Inc. of Omaha, Neb. "They need spaces that are conducive to a return to wellness."

Bright floor-to-ceiling windows in every patient room will offer spectacular views of the city skyline to the west and the Riverdale neighbourhood to the east. Views of Lake Ontario to the south and Riverdale Park to the north allow patients to stay connected to nature.

That integration with the outdoors is critical, says Jane Merkley, vice-president of programs, services and professional affairs, and chief nurse executive for Bridgepoint Health. "Many of our patients have eight or nine chronic health issues. For months they've been in acute-care hospitals and therefore have an illness focus. We want to take away the sense that the hospital is an end destination for them."

The community will be drawn into the building by visitor-friendly features, Mr. Colucci adds. For example, a grand entrance that leads to the main floor lobby is unlike many post-war hospitals that leave visitors guessing as to the location of the front door, he says. The main floor will feature glass walls, food concessions, retail outlets, learning centres, office space, an auditorium and an outdoor terrace with steps to parkland.

The landscaping deliberately blurs the boundaries between public and private property, Mr. Colucci says. Visitors can wander through Bridgepoint's gardens and walkways where interpretive displays will communicate the history and significance of the site. A 20-metre-diameter public labyrinth – based on the medieval Chartres labyrinth near Paris – will be sized for wheelchairs and will promote mobilization, meditation and mental health.

For the first time, pedestrians and bicyclists using public trails won't have to detour around the site. Without compromising patient and staff security, "we've made the site and its buildings permeable and have enabled a variety of means to access it, pass through it and walk around it," Mr. Colucci says.

For staff, there will be decentralized nurses' stations on every floor, windowed staff lounges, wellness programs, a fitness centre and, because it's a University of Toronto-affiliated community teaching hospital, clinical training labs and educational resources.

The Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research and Innovation, with input from Diamond Schmitt and the University of Toronto School of Architecture, will, over a period of about 18 months, study whether the building is performing as expected in terms of improved outcomes for patients, Ms. Walsh says.

Long a place of refuge

Health and wellness services have been offered on the Bridgepoint site ever since the House of Refuge was established there in 1860.

– It became one of the first public hospitals in Toronto. In 1869 it helped to contain a smallpox epidemic.

- Two teams of architects are responsible for the two-tiered project design and delivery under Infrastructure Ontario's Alternate Financing and Procurement program: Stantec Architecture / KPMB Architects, planning, design and compliance architects; HDR Architecture / Diamond Schmitt Architects, design, build, finance and maintain architects.

– Plenary Health was awarded the 33-year contract to design, build, finance and maintain the new Bridgepoint hospital. The team includes Plenary Group, PCL Constructors Canada Inc., Innisfree, HDR Architecture, Diamond Schmitt Architects, Johnson Controls Inc., and RBC Capital Markets.

Editor's note: Two teams of architects are involved in the Bridgepoint project. Incomplete information appeared in the original version of this article. This online version has been corrected.