Branksome Hall Athletics & Wellness Centre
Client : Branksome Hall
Area : 72,000 sf
Program : Aquatic Centre, Gymnasium, Fitness Centre, Yoga and Dance Studios, Meeting Rooms, Dining Hall, Servery, Kitchen, Open Courtyards, Ravine Terraces
Completion : January 2015
ISSUU Link : https://issuu.com/mjmarchitects/docs/branksome_hall_awc
At an all-girls school in the residential South Rosedale Heritage Conservation District in Toronto, the Branksome Hall Athletics & Wellness Centre (AWC) adds a new gathering place to a large campus distinguished by its lushly forested ravines and open green spaces. The AWC is sited where an arterial thoroughfare cleaves the campus into east and west, and incorporates an existing pedestrian crossing that reconnects the two halves. While prioritizing security and privacy, the AWC is fully open and connected to the surrounding heritage architecture and natural landscape, establishing it as an athletics-focused gathering space serving the entire campus.
Restricted to a height of 12 metres by residential zoning regulations, and further limited by stormwater management requirements and pressures from neighbouring residents, the AWC maximizes its available space by placing the feature aquatic hall below grade. Comprising a teaching pool with a stepped entry and hydrotherapy bench and a 5-lane training pool with a 2.7-metre-deep rescue training area and underwater speaker system for lap training and synchronized swimming, the aquatic hall is amply lit by at-grade glazing, and is visible from a viewing gallery above, as well as circulation and social spaces. The gymnasium, stacked above the aquatic hall, includes a fitness centre, yoga and dance studios, and a dining hall for 300 students that doubles as assembly hall and conference space. Girded by a series of transparent glazed walkways that connect the ground floor to the second storey, this upper volume seems to float above the ground.
These transparent walkways also introduce intimate social gathering and learning spaces to the plan, always with visual connections to nature, and to accessible terraces on the ravine and rooftop. This transparency—combined with abundant natural light and a palette of natural, robust and tactile materials and finishes—grounds the AWC in its environment, making it an appealing space for students to observe first-hand how physical activity and wise eating choices form the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.