A new Montreal super-hospital saves the day

CHUM by Neuf Architectes and Cannon Design. Photo Adrien Williams

MONTREAL – Montreal is having a complete make-over in its healthcare sector as the second of the two super-hospitals opens its doors. In the hopes of invigorating the urban core, the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montreal (CHUM) designed by Cannon Design and NEUF architectes boasts state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and public art.

‘Due to years of inadequate funding, the strain on the Quebec Public Health network required some massive re-investment,’ explain the architects. ‘The two super hospitals represent the coming together of multiple ageing hospitals into two state of the art facilities.  The CHUM is in a highly urban context in downtown Montreal, while the other is further out along a major highway.’

The first part of a two-phased construction, it is seen as the largest public-private partnership project to date in Canadian history. Four main volumes are interconnected to form a 22-storey complex spanning over 280,000 sq-m of built area and encompassing two city blocks.

Phase 1, now complete, delivers the hospital’s core healthcare capabilities, including all patient rooms, all operating theatres, diagnostic and therapeutic, as well as the Oncology program, leaving only offices, a conference centre and a few ambulatory spaces for Phase 2.  Although it faced much scepticism over its imposing program on such a small site, the CHUM overthrows what is expected of a major hospital and moulded a unique building that understood all the constraints.

A recurring copper cladding wraps around the ground floor, encompassing meditation spaces, a 500-seat amphitheatre and the overhead bridge. The overhead passageway is an art piece of its own and justifies its presence with the shimmering light that leaks out of the metal perforations as it floats above a busy street.

Public art is present everywhere – a particular one being the printed facades of mountains directly laid on the curtain wall. The architects also took great care in highlighting existing cultural elements such as the maintenance of a church steeple and the façade of the Maison Garth. 'We have integrated the art directly into the architecture of the complex in ways that blur the lines between the two and provides a more human experience to the visitor and staff,' explains Azad Chichmanian, partner and architect at NEUF architectes. From the onset of design, the CHUM believed in the healing power of art and considered cultural enrichment in a prominent area of the city to be an essential part of its vocation.

At the wake of Expo 67 – a defining period in Montreal’s urban history – the city prepared for an influx of people that never formed, leaving a concrete jungle mixed with ageing greystone buildings to fend for itself. ‘Such a major investment allows the building to act as urban unifier, re-connecting neighbourhoods that were otherwise torn apart by infrastructure projects from the 60s and 70s - reinvigorating entire sectors of the downtown core and healing the urban and social fabric before patients even walk through the door.’

Phase 2 is expected to be completed by 2021.

Site Plan

Program Axonometric

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