Seneca Polytechnic's new health and sports hub looks to 'redefine' how wellbeing facilities are designed

Seneca Polytechnic in Toronto, Canada, has revealed plans for a multi-million-dollar health and wellness complex based on indigenous design, sustainability and inclusion.

Described as a "transformative destination", the hub will offer health and wellbeing services, teaching and learning, sports and fitness facilities, recreational spaces and a "spiritual connection" with its surroundings.

Designed by integrated practice, Dialog – in partnership with indigenous design firm, Two Row Architect – the new Health and Wellness Centre draws inspiration from the medicine wheel.

Sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop, the medicine wheel has been used by generations of various Native American tribes for health and healing.

The project will transform a decades-old Sport Centre at the east end of Seneca Polytechnic's Newnham Campus into a dynamic multi-storey health and wellness complex that includes traditional medicines, counselling, recreation and varsity sports facilities.

The Centre will also incorporate a new home for the Seneca Student Federation (SSF).

The building will have a spherical shape, represents a drum circle.

According to Erik Skouris, design lead, Two Row Architect, the drum circle symbolizes "balance, equality, wholeness and connection".

Skouris said: "The Health and Wellness Centre will be the heartbeat of Seneca.

"The outcome of this circular design signifying a drum demonstrates that the Centre will provide a holistic healing approach within the lives of the students based on Indigenous ways of seeing, understanding and being in the world that extends beyond the mere act of drumming.

"Many teachings across Turtle Island use the circle to represent balance and equality, wholeness, and connection.

"The circle is unbroken and made of equal, connected and infinite points. The Creator is at the centre of the courtyard, around which all living things – including students, engage. All programs radiate from this centre and have a special and direct connection to it. The drum voices our connection to all creation when we move and strengthens our bonds to each other when we drum together.”

Funding for the Centre is coming from Seneca, the SSF and the Student Athletic Association (SAA). The SSF and SAA contributions have been funded through capital fees contributed by students over the years.

The Centre will represent the next phase of development at Newnham Campus, complementing the LEED Gold-certified Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, known as CITE, and the award-winning Odeyto Indigenous Centre.

Landscaped outdoor space surrounding the Centre will provide opportunities to engage with nature.

These include a central drum courtyard with fire pit, an extensive arrangement of native plants and trees, regenerative forest, earth mounds and a teaching and leisure rooftop terrace.

A multitude of green building practices will also be incorporated, including mass timber, rainwater harvesting, solar energy, geothermal energy, renewable building materials, green roofing, and designing for resilience and operational sustainability.

Subject to approval by the provincial government, the demolition of current facilities is set to begin later this year, with an estimated building completion in 2026.

Craig Applegath, DIALOG Partner, said: “There are a number of big ideas that have inspired this design. One is the idea that this building will be an intimation of what an 'architecture of reconciliation' could look like.

"It is a way of not only connecting and reconciling indigenous and settler cultures, but also of providing a gateway for potential new Canadian students to imagine what the reconciled future Canada might look and feel like.

"Another is that this is intended to be a truly environmentally responsible building: with plans for net-zero carbon, and sustainable mass timber – and a wonderful showcase for both."

Two Row Architect  wellbeing  Toronto  Dialog  Canada 
Seneca Polytechnic in Toronto, Canada, has revealed plans for a multi-million-dollar health and wellness complex based on indigenous design, sustainability and inclusion. Described as a "transformative destination", the hub will offer health and wellbeing services, teaching and learning, sports and fitness facilities, recreational spaces and a "spiritual connection" with its surroundings. Designed by integrated practice, Dialog – in partnership with indigenous design firm, Two Row Architect – the new Health
The building has been designed by integrated practice, Dialog, in partnership with indigenous design firm, Two Row Architects / Dialog
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