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Healthy Heart


The six-storey David Braley Health Sciences Centre is located on a prominent downtown site across from Hamilton City Hall. Photo: Shai Gil

The six-storey David Braley Health Sciences Centre is located on a prominent downtown site across from Hamilton City Hall. Photo: Shai Gil

A new health centre in downtown Hamilton offers a refreshing and engaging workplace for students and staff.

Located in the heart of downtown Hamilton, the David Braley Health Sciences Centreis a place where wellness, collaboration and teaching collide. Completed in 2015 after an extensive 11-year planning and building process, the centre—named after businessman and philanthropist David Braley—is now home to the University of McMaster Health Care Teaching Program, Maternity Clinic, Family Health Centre, and Hamilton Public Health. Welcoming students, members of the general public, and faculty alike, the Centre seeks to provide a series of interconnected and engaging environments under one roof.

The public system starts at grade with a two-storey glass lobby that fronts onto a landscaped public entry plaza and extends up via an indoor amphitheater and staircase to a two storey public atrium. Photo: Shai Gil

The public system starts at grade with a two-storey glass lobby that fronts onto a landscaped public entry plaza and extends up via an indoor amphitheater and staircase to a two storey public atrium. Photo: Shai Gil

Common throughout is a material pallet of stone and wood as well as fountains and planting features that link elevated spaces back to the original ground plane entry spaces. Photo: Shai Gil

Common throughout is a material pallet of stone and wood as well as fountains and planting features that link elevated spaces back to the original ground plane entry spaces. Photo: Shai Gil

“The building is the foundation of the University campus,” said David Clusiau of NORR Architects, who worked as design principal on the project alongside his firm and Ball Construction. “For students and staff, it is an excellent academic and training facility, whereas for patients, it is a convenient clinic located in a previously underserved area.”

The 192,000-sq.-ft. building, connecting to City Hall and the adjacent Art Gallery through its modernist massing and details, contains a glass lobby that fronts onto a landscaped public entry plaza. In addition to meeting rooms and classrooms, the second floor contains a 200-seat theatre that doubles as a learning centre and venue for public gatherings and events. An open staircase leads to four more floors containing 48 exam rooms, a clinic, cafe, scholars lounge, and more. The staircase provides fluid circulation as an attractive and healthy alternative to elevator travel.

Abundant views of the city, escarpment, harbour and water reveal a strong focus on nature through design, complemented by indoor fountains and trees, an outdoor garden terrace, green walls and roofs, and a general material palette of wood and stone. “Being able to bring the project in on budget using this rich pallette was a triumph for our team,” says Clusiau. Radiant floor heating, greywater collection and reuse, below grade air intake tunnels, and a connection to a district heating network for heating and cooling helped the project to achieve LEED Gold Certification.

More than simply pleasing its users and surrounding environment, the Centre is a model for how building design can help refresh a city’s downtown core. “It’s an important investment to the urban quality of life in Hamilton,” says Clusiau. “The Centre has greatly contributed to the city’s revitalization and the civic and cultural precinct at its heart.”