Dezeen Magazine

Consultation booths overlooking Toronto skyline

Hariri Pontarini rethinks cold medical interiors at Barlo MS Centre

Canadian architecture studio Hariri Pontarini has completed a clinic in Toronto for multiple sclerosis patients that features warm wood tones and spaces designed to feel like "first-class airplane lounges".

The Barlo MS Centre is Canada's largest clinic dedicated to those with MS, a complex autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.

Entrance with curved reception desk
The BARLO MS Centre was designed with atypical colours, materials, textures and lighting

Named after its two biggest donors, the Barford and Love families, the centre occupies the top two floors of a new 17-storey tower at St Michael's Hospital in Downtown Toronto.

The 30,000-square-foot (2,790-square-metre) facility was designed by local studio Hariri Pontarini Architects, which aimed to rethink sterile-looking healthcare spaces and focus on patient wellbeing through the use of atypical colours, materials, textures and lighting.

Feature staircase in the atrium
The clinic's two storeys are connected by a staircase that rises through an atrium

"Canadians are particularly prone to MS for reasons that are unclear," said the studio.

"This hospital's mission is nothing less than to transform MS care and become the world's leading MS centre through research and clinical treatment."

Walnut cladding around consultation rooms
Circular consultation rooms are partially clad in walnut

Taking cues from the hospitality industry, the team aimed to create a "comfortable and welcoming environment" by filling the spaces with daylight and offering views of the skyline.

The two floors are connected by a double-height atrium, topped with an oculus that allows more natural light in from above.

Inside a consultation room
The wavy panels conceal the rooms from the main circulation corridor

A staircase rises up through the atrium, curving towards the top with a glass balustrade to follow the shape of the opening.

Downstairs, the atrium connects to a lounge at the corner of the building and a reception area anchored by a curved white counter.

Infusion pods
Infusion pods are given privacy by pale wood screens

A wide corridor leads past a series of cylindrical consultation rooms that are partially glazed, but screened where they face the circulation area by wavy walnut panels.

On the other side of the floor plan, smaller and more open consultation booths named infusion pods are still offered privacy with curved pale wood screens.

Reception area
Different varieties of wood give the interiors a warm tone

"The infusion pods where patients may sit for up to eight hours are modelled to resemble a first-class airplane lounge and provide complete control over their environment," the Hariri Pontarini team said.

Various light-toned woods are used for wall panels and balustrades, as well as thin slats that extend across the ceilings.

Lounge area
The atrium connects to a lounge and waiting area

All spaces were designed with durability and accessibility in mind, considering that some MS patients have vision and cognitive loss, fatigue and impaired coordination.

Bronze-coloured handrails were installed along the majority of walls and partitions, while anti-slip porcelain tiles cover the floors to aid patient mobility.

The centre also includes a gym, a mock apartment adapted for MS patients, and rooms for meetings, research and administration.

Together, it provides patients with a space to see a dedicated healthcare team in one location and clinicians the state-of-the-art resources to offer the best possible treatment.

Upper level lit by oculus
An oculus above the atrium brings daylight into the centre of the building

Hariri Pontarini Architects was founded by Siamak Hariri and David Pontarini in 1994.

One of the studio's most recognisable buildings is the Bahá’í temple in Chile, featuring torqued wings made of steel and glass, while its work closer to home includes the glass-wrapped Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ontario.

Upper level corridor
Handrails are provided throughout the clinic to aid patient mobility

The Barlo MS Centre is one of five projects shortlisted in the Leisure and Wellness Interior category of the Dezeen Awards 2022, along with a Shenzhen cinema and a spa in the Maldives.

See the full Interiors shortlist and vote now for your favourites.

The photography is by A-Frame.

More images and plans