Amid Toronto's cultural and physical renaissance, the city has undertaken an institutional revolution that has repositioned Toronto at the forefront of heath science and medical care. Projects like St Michael's Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, SickKids Research and Learning Tower, and CAMH are redefining the spaces that map Toronto. Perhaps most supportive of the health care projects in celebrating the city's past while reimagining a progressive future is Bridgepoint Hospital.

The healthcare facility centres itself around a symbolic brick giant, the Don Jail, at Gerrard Street East and Broadview Avenue. The project combines a modern vision while maintaining the historic integrity of the site, a property that predates Confederation. After a nearly-10-year redevelopment, Bridgepoint Hospital is nearing completion, treating Torontonians with its impressive silvery exterior countered by the restored yellow brick and limestone jail. The nearly-150-year-old jail will be converted into the administrative wing of Bridgepoint Health, linked to the new hospital by a bridge.

A huge number of people from many companies are involved in bringing this very complex job to completion. Architectural firms involved include KPMB and Stantec, Diamond Schmitt and HDR, with heritage aspects handled by ERA and The Ventin Group. The landscape and public realm around the complex is by Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg and The MBTW Group. The project also includes Toronto's first children's hospice, the Philip Aziz Hospice, through a retrofitting of the historic Governor's house by Hilditch Architect with Goldsmith Borgal & Company as the heritage architects, who are also tackling the Gatekeeper's House on site to convert it for future community use. PCL is the construction leader with doubtless countless subcontractors.

Don Jail, standing in what will be the new forecourt

Don Jail, standing in what will be the new forecourt, image by Anthony Galloro

Overlooking a future courtyard, north of the Don JailOverlooking a future courtyard, north of the Don Jail, image by Anthony Galloro

Lording over the lower Don Valley, the institution is becoming a new icon as drivers navigate the adjacent parkway. The highly reflective glass, deep grey cladding, and warm stone exterior marks a new edifice, one that integrates different textures and architectural styles to re-envision public space and health. 

Bridgepoint looking south from the Don Valley ParkwayBridgepoint Hospital looking south from the Don Valley Parkway, image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

Bridgepoint Hospital's use of stone standing next to the Don JailBridgepoint Hospital's use of stone complements the Don Jail, image by Anthony Galloro

Bridgepoint's use of wood warms its sleek designBridgepoint Hospital's use of wood warms its sleek design, image by Anthony Galloro

One of the aspects that makes Bridgepoint Hospital so unique in central Toronto is its attempt to foster community through the integration of public space throughout the property in a series of courtyards and green space. Dubbed healing landscaping, the courtyards are intended to bridge the community, creating an inclusive and interactive environment for its patients and neighbours. Bridgepoint Health is committed to environmental inclusion, encouraging growth, healing, and sociality through spatial logistics. Serene gardens, open space, art, a labyrinth, and a water feature will redefine the site, reconceptualising the way the city had formerly viewed inclusive neighbourhoods.

Bridgepoint Hospital's restored groundsBridgepoint Hospital's restored grounds and respositioned street access, image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

Patients will be moving into Bridgepoint Hospital from Riverdale Hospital in April, and the teardown of it, aka the "half-round", as well as of the Toronto Jail portion of the Don Jail, will begin immediately afterwards. Some landscaping elements are ready now with more coming this year, while ultimate completion of the grounds plan will not be until mid-2014. Bridgepoint Health provides more insight into the plan, including a tree protection initiative for the grounds.

Bridgepoint Hospital's forecourt seen from Gerrard Street EastBridgepoint Hospital's forecourt seen from Gerrard Street East, image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

Bridgepoint Hospital's labirynth and interactive art featureBridgepoint Hospital's labirynth and interactive art feature, image courtesy of Bridgepoint Health

What has been a quasi-derelict site is nearly transformed into Toronto's newest trove; a project bound to inspire other leaders in the community-health paradigm. While Toronto readily reimagines itself in its private-public developments, it is reassuring to see a plan that retrofits Toronto's past in its quest for a harmonious present, one that remembers its roots and uses that foundation to build a sustainable future.

We will be back for much more coverage of Bridgepoint Hospital as various components are opened. In the meantime you can find many more renderings for the project in the UrbanToronto dataBase entry, linked below. Want to get in on the conversation? Choose the associated Forum thread link, or leave your comments on this page.