Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences consists of a new greenfield hospital including all health service as well as an integrated cancer care.

Process: Farrow organized a number of exploratory discussions before starting the design process, as to what the clients medical and clinical values were towards their patients, families and staff.

The core values of the organization were based on creating a clinical feeling of being emotionally safe, understood and accepted, so a patient will open up about health issues, imagine a possible way forward to a better health future, enabling them to be more confident in the ability to grow towards better health.

In salutogenic terms, this is about a sense of coherence, our ability to comprehend a different future, which we can manage and the future state is meaningful.

From a psychological perspective, the characteristics are of feeling emotionally safe, understood and accepted in a relationship and the emotional characteristic are those of being: natural, still and self-connected, solidness, durable and trustworthy, intimate and familiar, authentic, and a generousness that is open and inclusive.

In terms of architectural characteristics, they reflect qualities of space that are of: nature; solidness, silence, stillness and intimacy; authenticity; and generous.

The main design organizational element of the building is that of a gently curving, tall, main public space; the curve oriented southerly and to the radial path of the sun, bent slightly to the east and the rising sun, and bending slightly to the west to the setting sun; an act of tracing the continuous, day after day, month after month, year after year, movement of time.


Different that Credit Valley, which consists of an inward focused courtyard space with four very large wood column structures, at Thunder Bay, the primary space is more a path – trail like – which bends so as not to fully revealing the end. However, the path offers comprehensibility, as the curve is consistent in slowly illuminating itself.

The roof is supported by 24 tall and thin wood columns, starting on the exterior as canopy supports, moving inwards to a space that is glazed on one side that is oriented southward. Sectionally the space is lower to the north, rising in height slightly to the south. The roof is solid to the north but at the higher southern edge become translucent and ephemeral. The columns reach crisply up wards, then decidedly in a radial direction outwards, stretching to support both solid and translucent roof sections.

The southern glazed wall is lined with a delicate exterior mounted horizontal brise soleil, the spacing of the brise soleil members create a dappled delicate pattern of light and shadow on all surfaces, leaf like; natural and authentic and changing through out the day and the seasons.

The brise soleil, combined with thin wood columns and beams, with the spatially vertical oriented, linear sunlit, curved space, creates the sensation of hiking outdoors through a northern Ontario aspen forest trail; still, calm, silent and intimate, with branches gently stretching over head, and varied light-shaddow patterns on the ground.

The floor surface consists of a terrazzo floor with aggregate that was chose for its varied form, pattern, size and colour alluding to an old river; appearing white and frozen to the west, at the main entrance; changing to an appearance of melting with crisp spring water colours; then the colour palette of the warmer water colours and patterns of summer; then arriving at the intersection of the main east-west and north-south circulation corridors, which is highlighted with a slightly curved glass sided public stair. The stairs twisting curving treads and glass edges appears to cascade down from the level above, and continues to drifts and curves down in a fluid form, enhanced by the crystalline glass volume, to the level below. The floor pattern the continues onwards in a rich fall colour palette of water and leaves, continues toward the far end of the building.

The aspen path and river metaphor is one of an ageless, generous, passing of time; at times still and frozen, at others cascading and frothy, then returning to calmness and familiarity, as a continuous rhythm of life and regeneration; architectural elements are indicative of the clients medical values.

Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre: Main Public Corridor

Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre: Ariel View of Campus

Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre: Main Entry

Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre: Central Staircase