Hariri Pontarini rethinks cold medical interiors at the BARLO MS Center

Canadian architecture firm Hariri Pontarini has completed a clinic in Toronto for multiple sclerosis patients that features warm wood colors and spaces designed to feel like “first-class airline lounges.”

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

BARLO MS Center is designed with atypical colors, materials, textures and lighting

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

The 30,000 square meter (2,790 sq ft) facility was designed by the local studio Hariri Pontarini Architectswhich aimed to rethink sterile-looking healthcare spaces and focus on patient well-being through the use of atypical colors, materials, textures and lighting.

Feature staircase in the atrium
The clinic’s two floors are connected by a staircase that goes up through an atrium

“Canadians are especially prone to MS for reasons that are unclear,” the study said.

“This hospital’s mission is nothing less than to transform MS care and become the world’s leading MS center through research and clinical care.”

Walnut paneling around the consultation room
Circular consultation rooms are partially clad in walnut

Drawing on the hospitality industry, the team aimed to create a “comfortable and welcoming environment” by filling the spaces with daylight and offering skyline views.

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 hide the rooms from the main circulation corridor

A staircase ascends 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 bellows
Infusion pods are given privacy by pale wooden screens

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

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

Reception area
Different types of wood give the interior a warm tone

“The infusion tanks, where patients can sit for up to eight hours, are modeled to resemble a first-class airline lounge and provide complete control over their environment,” said the Hariri Pontarini team.

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

Lounge area
The atrium connects to a lounge and waiting area

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

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

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

Together, it gives patients a space to see a dedicated healthcare team in one place and clinicians the advanced resources to offer the best care possible.

Top level lit by oculus
An oculus above the atrium brings daylight into the center of the building

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

One of the studio’s most recognizable buildings is the Bahá’í Temple in Chile, with twisting wings made of steel and glass, while its work closer to home includes the glass-wrapped Tom Patterson Theater in Stratford, Ontario.

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

Bar MS Center is one of five projects nominated 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 entire Interiors shortlist and vote for your favorites now.

The photography is off A frame.

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