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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 9, Issue 3, Fall 2015

Designing the David Braley Health Sciences Centre

The David Braley Health Sciences Centre was designed to welcome the community, set the stage for engaging collaborations, and to enhance the growing partnership between Public Health Services for the City of Hamilton and the Department of Family Medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

The building is partly a community space open to the public with a café, public meeting and lounge space as well as family health, maternity and public health clinics. It is also the home for major research and education initiatives of McMaster's Faculty of Health Sciences.

The building was designed by architect David Clusiau, senior principal, architectural design, of NORR Limited of Toronto. It was constructed by Ball Construction of Kitchener, Ont.

The design was intended to support the innovative interdisciplinary, team-based environment that is the hallmark of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and its unique collaboration with Hamilton Public Health
There was a focus on creating a healthy working environment that encourages stair use and features daylight
and views for all.

— David Clusiau

Clusiau added: "We wanted to create a building that connects with Hamilton, a city that resides between the lake and the escarpment with its layered stone, forest and waterfalls — a building that supports and reinforces both the unique combination of health care programs it houses, as well the cultural and civic centre of the city."

To link the building back to the University tradition, noble materials like stone, copper and glass were used, but assembled in a contemporary manner, said Clusiau.

The architect also sought to create an engaging and lively street frontage along Main Street. To this end, they incorporated an architectural massing that links the building to surrounding public institutions like City Hall, which is located across the street, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton, which is expected to be connected in the future via a bridge from the second floor. This will form a new western edge to Commonwealth Square; and contribute to the revitalization of the downtown core.

The designer wanted to solve the challenge of the building's relatively compact site, which  drives public functions up high in the building, away from the ground floor entry and natural environment. To accomplish this, he created a cascading series of interlinked multi-story public spaces and exterior terraces with plants, fountains, green walls and views that extend from the ground floor entrance all the way up to the sixth floor.

At the north side of the building is a patients' drop-off entrance with a protective portico. The lower floor parking is reserved for patients of the clinics.

The 192,000-square-foot (17,600-square-metre) building has an impressive Main Street entrance that opens into a large (approximately 3,500-square-foot) lobby washed in light from floor to ceiling windows. The large room has abundant greenery and a cascading water feature. Also located on the main floor will be a pharmacy and a cafe called La Prep, an upscale bistro-style quick-service restaurant specializing in freshly prepared sandwiches, salads, baked goods and specialty coffees.

There are also plans for a diagnostic imaging clinic for the main floor and several other health-related services.

In addition, a large, elaborate model train set will be moved into a space off the main lobby area, a donation from Hamilton lawyer David Lee who spent more than 50 years building the elaborate tiny village in the basement of his Dundas home. The set will be dismantled and reassembled at the health campus.

A large, wide staircase, with space to seat an audience of 120 to 150 people, ascends from the lobby to a second floor corridor lit by skylights and east windows. A large, multi-purpose room with 30-foot-high windows, which is the location of many public events, overlooks City Hall. Among the room's features is seating that can be retracted into the wall.

On the second floor, a health sciences learning centre has 11 classrooms designed for McMaster's innovative small-group, problem-based learning, as well as two meeting rooms with a room divider and flexibility to become one larger room. A bridge is planned to connect the second floor to the Irving Zucker Sculpture Garden of the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

The third floor is home to the McMaster Family Practice and the Maternity Centre of Hamilton which have a combined 48 exam rooms, and offices and collaborative space for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals. The Hamilton Maternity Centre is also integrated into the clinic space. The waiting room features windows overlooking Main Street, an aquarium and an outdoor garden.

The fourth, fifth and sixth floors are designed to provide opportunities for collaboration between the leaders, educators, researchers and staff of Public Health Services and the Department of Family Medicine, as well as other health sciences programs.

A sixth floor multi-purpose space provides outdoor garden areas and large views of the city to the north, west and south, encompassing surrounding landmarks, Lake Ontario and the escarpment.

About 450 McMaster and 110 Public Health Services employees will have moved in to the building by the end of this year.

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, said: "This is a beautiful landmark reflecting Hamilton's growing importance in the provincial and national health sectors. We're known for our excellence and innovation in health sciences education and research, and this building is designed to support those initiatives."