New Facility Puts Resources Front and Centre

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The “transformation” theme planned for the new Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre will start with a grassy, egg-shaped mound in the main entrance driveway. It will continue in the reception area with colourful curved benches reminiscent of caterpillars. Beyond, the view through floor-to-ceiling windows will draw visitors into the Resource Centre, where the transformation culminates – as a huge mobile of a luna moth appears ready to fly out and over the nearby ravine.

It is very fitting that the transformation becomes complete at the Resource Centre. That unique Centre aims to transform the experience of patients and their families by transforming the approach to information resources.

“When a new client comes here for the first time – a child with cerebral palsy or a recent amputation or brain injury – everything is new and often a bit overwhelming for them and for their families,” says Shelley Ditty, Bloorview MacMillan’s chief planning officer.

“The Resource Centre will be a gateway to all the information, staff, equipment, and connections that can transform their experiences – right at the front entrance.”

This is an innovative concept for health-care facilities. Usually, resources of this kind are scattered and separated from each other by long corridors, or floors, or even – as in the current operation of Bloorview MacMillan – separate sites.

For several years, Bloorview MacMillan staff, clients, families and community residents have been working closely with Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc. and Dunlop Architects Inc. (architects in joint venture). Right from the predesign/visioning process, they have put a lot of thought into designing a new consolidated facility for the world-renowned rehabilitation centre for children and youth with disabilities scheduled to open in mid-town Toronto in 2005. Interior design and landscaping consultants have been involved since the project’s beginning.

“The Resource Centre is designed to fascinate and delight children, their parents and siblings as it empowers them with knowledge and experience,” says Terry Montgomery, a partner with Montgomery Sisam.

“This really is the centre of Bloorview MacMillan,” adds Dunlop’s Jane Wigle, one of the lead architects on the project. “Every clinical, research or teaching area of the organization will be represented here.”

Here are some of the main features:

  • A resource centre coordinator will occupy a key position, welcoming children, youth and their caregivers/families, as well as students and community members, and connecting them to staff, programs or information resources.
  • A family relations coordinator will offer one-on-one support to family members, as well as connections to other parents and caregivers, and education sessions on topics important to families who have children or youth with disabilities.
  • Near the windows will be computer stations with Bloorview MacMillan’s extensive database of information related to children’s rehabilitation, plus access to the internet. Next to the desks will be play areas, adequate space for wheelchairs, and upholstered chairs where the children or their siblings can relax and read. Some stations will be supplied with computer games to entertain children and youth. The floor will have regularly spaced electrical outlets, making it accessible to children and youth using ventilators.
  • Located next to the outdoor terrace and gardens, and close to the gymnasium, the Active Living Centre will encourage people to try out adapted tricycles, sleds and other recreation equipment. Its coordinator will offer additional information on equipment and techniques that enable children and youth with disabilities to enjoy indoor and outdoor recreation activities.
  • Currently, Bloorview MacMillan’s libraries are primarily used by staff. The large, sunlit library planned for the Resource Centre will make all of these professional resources accessible to clients, families and community members, too.
  • Display cabinets and interactive installations will showcase the world-class research and development achievements taking place at Bloorview MacMillan. These include the child’s myoelectric arm, adapted prostheses that allow children to participate in activities such as skiing and violin-playing, and devices that enable a person with a disability to control a wide range of household devices, such as televisions, telephones and light switches.
  • As Bloorview MacMillan’s main gathering place, the Resource Centre will have moveable furnishings and installations so it can be opened up to accommodate special events.

All of this will be housed in a welcoming two-storey space overlooking the nearby ravine. Special installations are still under discussion, but the architects, along with Interior Design Collaborative Inc. and Carlyle Hall Associates have suggested a combination of touchable sculptures, textile wall hangings, interactive displays, and illuminated glass. A “Snoezelen”-type wall display is planned for the reception area, with softly changing patterns and colours of light to keep children entertained without requiring physical activity. Sculptured stone panels will tell the story of the nearby ravine. Everywhere, there will be assistance and information.

It is no accident that the larvae-caterpillar-moth transformation theme becomes complete at the Resource Centre – gateway to the Bloorview MacMillan “place of promise”.