Bessarion Community Centre
Client : City of Toronto
Area : 218,400 sf
Program : Aquatic Centre (6-Lane 25m Lap Pool, Leisure Pool, Spectator Viewing Area, Changerooms), Gymnasium, Fitness Centre, Indoor Track, Branch Library, Child Care Centre, Multi-Purpose Community Rooms, Meeting Rooms, Youth Room, Games Room, Concession, Community Kitchen, Administrative and Support Spaces, Outdoor Program (Playground, Accessible Rooftop Terrace)
A state-of-the-art amenities complex, Bessarion Community Centre adds 120,000 square feet of programming to a neighbourhood still in development, with an emphasis on health and wellness. Developed through public consultation, the Centre anchors a neighbourhood whose growth is still surging after the addition of a subway line in 2002.
The Centre’s elongated site is capped by a major artery to the north and a highway to the south, with residential along its sides—high-density mixed-use to the east, single-family houses to the west. Responding to this site, the Centre comprises two bar-shaped volumes of unequal heights. To the west, a lower, narrower bar allows for a 9-metre setback facing a row of single-occupancy houses, matching their scale, and is buffered by a landscaped area of backyards, terraces, and a playground for the childcare centre inside. Clad in zinc panels, this volume includes an acoustical parapet to shield neighbours from rooftop mechanical and provides a backdrop for vertical landscaping. The western bar also houses meeting rooms, art rooms, games rooms, a public kitchen, and change rooms.
Along the opposite elevation, facing a boulevard, a retail centre and a park beyond, is the taller eastern bar, whose upper storeys are split into two volumes of unequal height. The eastern bar features full-height windows along its primary façade to offer daylight and transparency to an interior programmed with a gymnasium and running track, multipurpose activity room, large meeting rooms, and dance and fitness studios. These windows are interspersed with undulating porcelain panels separated by zinc battens that correspond to the cladding of the western bar, while the roof is topped with photovoltaic panels.
Both volumes intersect with a street-level aquatics centre and library under a vegetated roof that runs the length of the building, providing pedestrian cover at grade, and leading toward the main entrance. Here, a central atrium with a four-storey staircase connects all floors, serving as a community hub.
Part of a master plan, the Centre connects to its neighbours on every side—managing pedestrian and vehicular traffic through the site, and remaining open to future developments. Crucial to a project of this size, the Centre incorporates multiple sustainability measures, several focusing on the site’s water strategy, including bioswales, stormwater drainage and retention, and an irrigation model. Other significant measures are found in the use of passive light and temperature control, both inside and out, and in the extensive PV array and high-performance energy systems.