University Avenue is Toronto’s grandest downtown boulevard. South of the Ontario Legislature — which gives the street a majestic northern view terminus — the broad avenue is flanked by globally renowned healthcare facilities, including Toronto General Hospital and Mount Sinai, as well as highly regarded specialist institutions like the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Popularly known as SickKids, the Hospital for Sick Children is perhaps the most famous of them all; ranked the world’s top pediatric hospital by Newsweek in 2022. And thanks to a new wing by B+H Architects, it’s also one of the most colourful.
Situated just east of University on Elizabeth Street, the recently completed Patient Support Centre is a conspicuous addition to the SickKids campus. The bright new building sits between the hospital’s Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning to its east, and the older cluster of clinical spaces that occupies a full block of University Avenue to the west. Creating a new cross-campus connection, the PSC consolidates education, training, and administrative spaces into a collaborative hub that will accommodate some 3,000 staff. Rising 22 storeys, the form was contoured to clear the adjacent helicopter flight path — which serves University Avenue’s hospitals — while the height was limited to preserve Toronto’s City Hall view corridor.
Designed to create light-filled working environments and facilitate more intuitive circulation through the campus, the 39,697-square-metre building is immediately distinguished by its colourful, articulated glass façade. The 22-storey form is sculpted into an angular cluster of volumes, and accented by vivid yellow soffits, as well as a kinetic pattern of vertical fins — alternating between the same bright hue and a muted grey — that mitigate solar heat gain across the body of the tower. At street level, the slightly recessed main entrance is fronted by a modest plaza that lends the front door a sense of arrival.
Inside, the play of colour continues. Past the front doors, an airy double-height lobby is accented by a striking blue circulation stair, as well as a graceful kaleidoscopic mobile suspended from the ceiling — evoking a multi-coloured flock of birds in flight, or a constellation of paper airplanes. The art installation is paired with dichroic glass surfaces, which playfully amplify and modulate the suspended symphony of hues and forms.
According to Patrick Fejér, B+H Project Design Lead and CEO, “The building’s undulating façade and blue ribbon staircase are entry points to an environment that tends to staff wellbeing, guided by the knowledge that patient care requires caring for staff.”
Past the drama — and fun — of the lobby, the complex features a wealth of educational and administrative spaces. In the basement, state-of-the-art simulation rooms give clinicians a controlled setting in which to practice the complex surgeries and procedures that take place across the street. A flexible educational space (which can be divided into a series of smaller rooms or combined into open seminar or conference settings) also facilitates teaching and knowledge exchange, which forms a major part of the hospital’s mandate.
The upper floors are primarily given over to SickKids offices and administrative spaces. On the third floor, an eye-catching skybridge connects the tower to the hospital’s clinical campus, while internal circulation links the Patient Support Centre to the adjacent Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning.
To create open and light-filled spaces throughout the tower, B+H situated the elevator core at the building’s northern end, allowing natural light into the heart of the building. The sleek, transparent curtain wall also facilitates a visual connection to the hospital’s clinical buildings across the street, giving staff and patients a symbolic link to the administrative work that supports them. Across the tower levels, colour continues to play a key role, with each floor accented by a dedicated hue, supporting easy wayfinding through the building.
Alongside the elevator bay, exit stairs — each lit with their floor’s identifying colour — are framed with expansive windows, creating a pleasant environment that encourages staff to walk and mingle. And while an emphasis on workplace wellness and comfort is embedded into the design, the undeniable pièce de résistance is the building’s rooftop garden, which offers SickKids employees a tranquil fresh air retreat (paired with neighbouring indoor social spaces) framed by panoramic views of the downtown core.
For SickKids, the new Patient Support Centre is a meaningful addition to an evolving healthcare campus — and a welcoming overture to the city’s public realm. It also marks a milestone in the hospital’s ongoing Project Horizon, a multi-billion plan to gradually modernize the whole of the campus. In the coming years, a new patient care tower and ambulatory care facility will replace part of the ageing University Avenue frontage, with an upcoming renovation also set to revitalize the showpiece Atrium Building, designed by famed Toronto architect Eberhard Zeidler and opened in 1993. And while the project is focused on improving quality of care and workplace wellness, it’s also poised to give the world’s best pediatric hospital an appropriately iconic — and perhaps even more colourful — civic presence.
B+H Architects design a light-filled and energetic new hub for the Hospital for Sick Children.