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Bridgepoint Hospital 
14 St Matthews Rd, Toronto
Developer: Bridgepoint Health, Infrastructure Ontario, Plenary Health

Bridgepoint Hospital | 62m | 10s | Bridgepoint Health | Diamond Schmitt

Discussion in 'Buildings' started by GeekyBoyTO, Jun 17, 2005.

  1. GeekyBoyTO

    GeekyBoyTO Guest

    From the Globe:


    What to do with a Riverdale landmark?

    The old hospital is slated for demolition. Some suggest it would make a fine condo

    Friday, June 17, 2005 Page G6

    Patients enjoying the early June weather almost surely noticed the older gentleman as he strolled the grounds of the former Riverdale Hospital -- now known as Bridgepoint Health -- pausing occasionally to admire its handsome features.

    With a sleek white ponytail anchoring his hawk-like nose, he squinted up at the zigzagging curtain wall wrapping around the macaroni-shaped building and noted with approval that the original aluminum window sashes and spandrel panels of "mink brown" and "sky grey" are still quite serviceable.

    As the man walked into the shade under the colourful "mushroom" canopies, however, only one wheelchair-bound fellow thought to politely inquire as to what he was looking at with such interest.

    Howard Chapman, a soft-spoken, 87-year-old architect, answered matter-of-factly and with a touch of humility that he was one of the two men responsible for the hospital's creation more than four decades ago.

    Opened at Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street in 1963, Riverdale Hospital was the first major commission for the two-partner firm of Chapman and Hurst, and the first major institutional building for leafy Riverdale.

    Leonard Hurst (1928-1979) had been out of the University of Toronto's architecture school for only five years when the firm received the commission in 1959. He was made design partner-in-charge because of his materials expertise and artistry, as evidenced by such flourishes as the concrete awning with circular cutouts and the "therapy terrace" wall of sawed-off ceramic sewer pipe on the hospital's south elevation.

    These talents, coupled with Mr. Chapman's business acumen, produced a grand work called the "Taj Mahal of bed-care centres" in a 1963 review by the Toronto Planning Board.

    The semi-circular shape, novel in Toronto then as now, solved many problems. Hemmed in by the Don Jail and a bowling club to the south and the Don Valley to the west, the partners decided to explore a curved design. Not only would it allow them to squeeze more building (and therefore beds) onto less land, it would provide better views to more patients. And since it was also the firm's desire to break with traditional hospital architecture, the design would create a more fluid, and at times even playful, profile.

    "We both had an objection to long, endless corridors stretching forever," Mr. Chapman says. "In fact, the site helped us there because we simply couldn't accommodate them."

    Since the shape also dictated that elevators be placed a good distance away from the building's entrance foyer, an elaborate mural was commissioned to draw the eye (and hopefully the feet) down the corridor to find them. The winner of a competition, the exquisite 85-foot long glass tile mosaic entitled Life -- a 2½-year project for Kitchener artist Margit Gatterbauer -- achieved this and much more. Depicting mankind's evolution, it lifts the spirit and gives the building an energy not usually found in hospitals.

    Which is exactly the point. From its ample interior brick- and teak-work, which provides domestic warmth, to its wonderful exterior massing and original landscaping by George Tanaka, this is a place more akin to a tropical hotel than institutional building. "I can tell you that that's a big consideration when you're designing a building -- to really get into the spirit of it and give people some comfort and some enthusiasm about living," Mr. Chapman says.

    Dancing happily over the whizzing traffic of the Don Valley Parkway, the building's curving arms seem to both embrace its elderly southern neighbour, the Don Jail, while being a clean modernist counterpoint. Unfortunately, it's also dancing dangerously close to extinction; Bridgepoint wants to have it bulldozed to make way for a new facility.

    So why not just place the new building elsewhere on the large site? That's what an independent think tank, which included University of Toronto architecture dean George Baird, heritage architect Catherine Nasmith and Alex Speigel of Context Development, asked this past April when Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher invited them to study Bridgepoint's proposal.

    "I think there was quite a strong consensus on this," says Mr. Speigel, who argues that retention of the 1963 building is a "no-brainer" since it would not only eliminate the problem of where to house patients during construction, it would give it a new lease on life, likely as a residential complex.

    "It's a very easy thing to leave the building [and] still make the rest of the site work. In fact, I think the rest of the site works better."

    Calling the building "quite a landmark," Mr. Speigel is convinced its narrow floor plate would make for an easy condominium conversion, while its modernist attributes and commanding view of the city would make for an easy sell to potential developers. "The entrance is spectacular," he says. "I think anybody with any design sense would certainly want to keep that as a feature."

    On June 22, Bridgepoint will host an open house at 4 p.m., followed by a community consultation meeting at 7 p.m. in the hospital's auditorium, which Ms. Fletcher predicts will be well-attended.

    "I do have to go with whatever the expert opinion is, but I've been really holding people's feet to the fire over this half-round building," the councillor says. "If in the end it stays up, I'll be thrilled; if in the end it goes down, there'll be nothing casual about it. Every single possible way of keeping it up will have been looked at first, and that's been my commitment."

    Which no doubt suits Mr. Chapman, who looks away from his building and up at the gathering rain clouds. "One of the things that has impressed me over the years," he says, "is the number of people who come here and say it's a wonderful place."

    Dave LeBlanc hosts The Architourist on CFRB Sunday mornings. Inquiries can be sent to

    Finally this building is receiving some media attention - the site plans/street grid extension as it stands now doesn't really require the demolition of this neat building - which also happen to align with the view axis of the Don Jail very nicely.


  2. Re: Riverdale Hospital (Bridgepoint) - Fate of Modernist Bld

    It stands at the end of my street, I've visited patients there, I donated my late partner's little aquarium for use in one of their lounges, and it has a remarkably relaxed and non-institutional feeling to it. It is handsome, it has art, it has style. Regardless of how fine the replacement is, if this building goes I'll be sad. And a bit mad.
  3. GeekyBoyTO

    GeekyBoyTO Guest

    Re: Riverdale Hospital (Bridgepoint) - Fate of Modernist Bld


    There is a community meeting (I presume you would have heard about it already) on the 22nd.

    Since I have to go to the City of Toronto Act consultation meetings, I can only show up for the Bridgepoint open house.

  4. Re: Riverdale Hospital (Bridgepoint) - Fate of Modernist Bld

    Alas, I work later on Wednesdays, so I can't go either. But the neighbours will keep me informed.
  5. ganjavih

    ganjavih Guest

    Re: Riverdale Hospital (Bridgepoint) - Fate of Modernist Bld

    I worked there for a bit... kind of a cool curvy modern building... the curved hallways made it feel like something other than a hospital. Sad to see it go.
  6. samsonyuen

    samsonyuen Guest

    Re: Riverdale Hospital (Bridgepoint) - Fate of Modernist Bld

    I really like the circular design, and it has a community center feel, rather than a health institution. It's too bad it'll be gone.
  7. adma

    adma Guest

  8. City Website: Bridgepoint (Riverdale Hospital) Planning

    Nothing particularly new - but I guess it's the last chance to save the building through official city channels?

  9. Toronto East York Community Council Report:

    There is a section on the old Riverdale Hospital Building, the design charette and reasons stated by Bridgepoint Health in calling for its' demolition. Postscript to follow.

  10. adma

    adma Guest

    [also see a lot of the other info on site]

  11. billonlogan

    billonlogan Guest

    It's easier to get a condo approved in this city than expanding a much needed long term care facility. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that Bridgepoint Health is a quasi-private health company that will reap huge dollars for surplus land it will sell to developers to finance the facility. It smells a whole lot like P3 and those socialists down in riverdale and city hall can't bear the thought of it. I suspect they'll try to force Bridgepoint into making the surplus lands for affordable or seniors housing. Then Bridgepoint can go back begging the province for more money to stay afloat.
  12. billonlogan:

    If you look at the site map carefully, you'll notice that a good chunk of the site is actually owned by the City of Toronto and leased to Bridgepoint, so rightfully, the city should have a say with regards to how the site should be developed. Certainly, the site, with good transit access is perfect for seniors housing.

    Selling extra land to finance capital projects is hardly "P3"; UHN/Toronto General did it with MaRS, for example.


    PS: Trying to make an argument by calling others "socialist" isn't terribly effective.
  13. Hume on the matter, from the Star:

    Riverdale Hospital for wrecking?
    Jan. 25, 2006. 08:23 AM

    In Toronto, where heritage preservation is stuck in the past, it's open season on buildings of the 1950s and `60s.

    The casualties are numerous - everything from the Union Carbide Building on Eglinton Ave. (demolished to make for an especially unpleasant condo) to the Bata Shoe headquarters on Wynford Dr. (about to be demolished to make way for an Ismaili cultural complex).

    Next to go could well be the unique "half-round" building, the old Riverdale Hospital in the lower Don Valley just north of Gerrard St. Its future will be the subject of a public meeting to be held Wednesday evening at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 415 Broadview Ave. The session, called by councillor Paula Fletcher, is sure to grow heated. Not only have the locals grown fond of the building, they're less than enthusiastic about what would replace it.

    Completed in 1963, the half-round is one of those rare structures whose every gesture and detail speaks of the age that produced it. Exuberant and wildly optimistic, this is an architectural relic from a time, the last in our history, when the future loomed brighter than the past.

    But now the eight-storey landmark faces demolition, the victim of an ambitious redevelopment program that doesn't include the semi-circular hospital. Renamed Bridgepoint Health, the new facility would consist of a series of low-rise towers, medical and residential. The old 1864 Don Jail, which sits directly south of the half-round, will be restored as an office building, and the 1970s addition will mercifully be torn down, along with a dreary apartment box on Broadview Ave.

    Bridegpoint officials and their consultants claim there isn't enough room to accommodate their needs with those of responsible architectural citizenship. The half-round must go, they say, to make way for a new and improved health-care centre.

    Arguing against health-care doesn't get you far in Canada, but, critics want to know, is it really an either/or question? Surely there's room for both?

    Certainly, the semi-circular monument designed by Chapman & Hurst should be saved. It is unlike anything else in Toronto, a genuine landmark and part of our history. Although architecture has regained its celebratory capacity, it has never recovered this same sense of innocence and faith in what lies ahead. The ironic tones of post-modernism have, happily, disappeared, but contemporary architects must address issues that weren't even a sparkle in their fathers' eyes 40 or 50 years ago.

    Though its form alone makes the half-round memorable, it is also a significant feature on the urban landscape, the southern edge of Riverdale Park East and a kind of urban beacon, a reminder that utility is no excuse for mediocrity. Fitted effortlessly into its context and facing north up the Don Valley, this is a condo-waiting-to happen, an obvious residential project that has everything going for it - architecture, location and views. The entrance, with its fantastic multi-coloured mushroom columns, shelters and delights in equal measure.

    In its own happy way, the half-round speaks of an era that believed in the power of architecture to change to human experience if not the world itself. Of course, the optimism of the `60s eventually died and the hospital grew old and outdated. Today the place desperately needs refurbishing, more likely for condo residents than long-term patients.

    It's revealing that no one has questioned the fate of the Don Jail; it dates from the 19th century, is built of stone and looks more "historic." Were anyone to suggest it be demolished, all hell would break loose, as it should.

    The half-round is, however, "modern"; in the collective mind that signifies cheap, ugly and dull. Given what happened to modernism and how quickly it was degraded that's not hard to understand.

    But that's also why exceptional examples such as this must be preserved.

  14. Alvin> The facts (like the city owning the land, etc) would just get in the way of Billa...'s rant. Why would you spoil a rant like that?
  15. billonlogan

    billonlogan Guest

    Feared destruction of Riverdale landmark sparks concerns
    Community meeting examines Bridgepoint expansion plans

    Mirror Staff
    Jan. 26, 2006

    The proposed redevelopment of the Bridgepoint health care facility, which will see the destruction of Riverdale's landmark half-round hospital, intensified communinty concerns at a Wednesday night meeting intended to put those concerns to rest.

    Organized by Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher (Toronto-Danforth), the meeting allowed Bridgepoint to clarify its case for the hospital redevelopment project while giving Riverdale residents a chance to publicly question Bridgepoint and City of Toronto officials about the feared loss of the community landmark.

    Bridgepoint maintained that the half-round facility, built in 1963, is now unable to meet the needs of its growing number of complex chronic disease and disability patients. Officials said the hospital can only provide 478 square feet of space per patient, less than half of the Ontario Ministry of Health's standard of 1,100 square feet, and 50 patients must also share one shower.

    The building also isolates patients from the community, has no expansion potential, and is incapable of providing an integrated network of complex health care services needed by its patients, Bridgepoint officials told the meeting.

    The $250 million redevelopment project will create, a "village of care" by reducing congestion, upgrading treatment technology, and expanding the hospital's research facilities, officials said.

    The project will also build health-related housing, residential buildings, and likely even retail stores around the new hospital. Bridgepoint officials said that while the half-round building must go, the spirit of Riverdale's heritage would be preserved by accommodating the historic Don Jail as an administrative facility for the proposed hospital.

    However, many local residents in attendance did not agree.

    Ron Fletcher, president of the Riverdale Historical Association, accused Bridgepoint of planning to sell some of its land to condominiums and retail stores to finance the expanded facilities.

    "You are selling public lands into private hands," he said.

    "The only thing I am asking for is for the half-round to stay. Why get rid of it to have condominiums and stores that no one wants anyway," noted resident Mark Osbaldeston, asserting that the half-round can be incorporated into the new facilities if inessential residential and retail buildings are discarded from the project.

    Denise Graham, senior planner of the City of Toronto, responded on behalf of Bridgepoint that plans to erect condominiums and retail stores are only tentative; and that the development proposal leaves room for flexibility.

    The project has received overwhelming support from people who have family members in the current half-round hospital.

    Riverdale resident Maria Shapiro, whose husband is paralyzed and is a patient at the half-round hospital, questioned whether it's more important to "preserve buildings, or preserve life."

    The redevelopment proposal has been sent to City Council, which is due to decide on it on Jan. 31.

    Bridgepoint President and CEO Marian Walsh said after the meeting that she remains "hugely optimistic" about the imminent council decision.

    "Many members of the city staff and the Toronto Preservation Authority have accepted the plan," she added.

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