The building was designed by architect Jerome Markson of the firm Markson Barooah Hodgson Architects Inc. and construction was completed in 1997. He is the recipient of numerous awards of recognition for his work and is a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, as well as the Toronto Society of Architects, where he has served as president. He is also a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts. Jerome states, “After graduating from the School of Architecture at the University of Toronto a decade after the Second World War, I became committed to developing architecture that had a positive social impact”. This is reflected in the body of his work which includes, Alexandra Park Housing, Woodgreen Community Housing, numerous co-op housing, Ronald McDonald House, Bathurst Library and Toronto Botanical Garden, just to name a few of his projects.
Architect’s Statement about the Building, 1996
The building at 168 Bathurst forms the consolidation of the Alexandra Park and Niagara Neighbourhood Community Centres in this generally needy and low income area. A multi-disciplinary Centre, it was designed to provide integrated medical, dental, community health and social services as well as neighbourhood meetings of a general nature.
We designed the building to look bright and cheerful in this run-down neighbourhood and to appear accessible and inviting to people, some of whom had never been in a health centre.
Clinical areas must all be adjacent to each other, and for this reason are placed on the second level, with the first floor being used for outreach and social services and public health lessons, and nutritional teaching. Folding partitions enable a space to be created for large public meetings of all kinds. We have infant care rooms available while the parent attends in other parts of the building. The third level is for staff with a large area available for rental to associated groups.
The building has been carefully designed from all aspects of environmental concern, and features the openable windows demanded by staff, all of whom were on the building committee. Hard wearing graffiti-proof materials were used both within and without.
We feel we have created a handsome addition to the neighbourhood, which helps to upgrade the area in an urbanistic desirable manner that revives this part of town, but also seems to fit naturally with its neighbours.
Within it is open, welcoming, non-intimidating and easily accessible. The client inspired a neighbourhood competition amongst local artists – three were chosen and produced admirable works related to the healing process.
Project Manager Statement about the building — Richard Seligman
In 1993, the Board of the Central Toronto Community Health Centre (formerly West Central Community Health Centres) decided that it needed to consolidate its two facilities (one in a storefront on Queen St. West, and the other in converted pair of semi-detached houses on Augusta Avenue in Alexandra Park) into a new, purpose-built building in order to achieve its objectives as an essential provider of health care and related services to the local area community.
From that point in time, a number of activities were set in motion to achieve the construction of the new building – the beginning of the process to secure funding from the Ministry of Health, the search for and purchase of a new site (the current location of the CTCHC), the beginning of approvals from the City, and the start of the process of the planning and design.
Over the course of the next year or so, the design of the building was prepared, revised, and re-revised through a very comprehensive and thorough consultation process with the Board, staff, clients, community members and partners to ensure that the building reflected their values and objectives.
In January 1995, the design team, including Jerome Markson, Architects, R. Seligman Associates Planner and Project Manager, the Executive Director Walter Weary, staff, and others working hard on the completion of the design of the building, introduced the idea of making art an important part of the new project. It was understood at the time that while the Ministry of Health would fund the construction of the building, it would not fund the acquisition of art for the building. In spite of that, the Board approved the formation of an art selection committee with community member involvement and announced that $100,000 would be budgeted for art work.
The construction of the building began with a ground breaking ceremony in May, 1996. During the course of the construction, the art selection committee selected, through competitions, and through commissioning, the artists that would produce works uniquely designed for the building, and art works which would be incorporated into the new building.
It is to the credit of the architect, Jerome Markson, to have initiated the idea of art as an essential part of the new building, to the Board to have supported the idea, to the selection committee that successfully managed the process of selecting the artists and the art works.
The art on display and built into the building (the large mural in the reception area on the second floor, for example) is work of high quality and beauty still to be admired. The works contribute handsomely to the building as expressions of the higher values of the CHC and its mission – to improve the health and quality of life of the communities it serves.
Building to heal a community — The Toronto Star article by Architect columnist Christopher Hume
The building was featured in a September 1997 review by the Toronto Star columnist Christopher Hume. In the article Hume remarked, “Markson’s quiet mastery makes him one of the rare architects who creates cities while designing buildings. Too often the truth is exactly opposite.”
To read the complete article click on the link document below:
Art at Queen West
As you walk through the health centre, we invite you to pause and view three commissioned works of art that were created for Queen West by three local artists.
A steel and glass mosaic tile structure “Simpler’s Joy” by John McKinnon that depicts “the herb Vervain which has been used since medieval times as a general cure all. Herbs were called simples and herbalists were called simplers, hence the term Simpler’s Joy” for the title of the piece. Look for it just inside the front door.
Triptych paintings by Brian Kipping portray the Alexandra Park and Niagara Neighbourhood sites and the gas station that once existed at the current Queen West site. It is on the wall by the ground floor reception desk.
A mural “The Great Mystery – Walk In Balance” by Rebecca Baird (Cree/Metis) that “speaks to the full breadth of experience within a health care facility… I chose the raven image because throughout times the Raven has carried the medicine of magic. I’ve included the four medicines given to Native peoples, Sage, Sweet grass, Cedar and Tobacco. The traditional healing practices involve the whole person, the healing of the body mind and spirit, hence the image of the eagle feather.”
The artworks were chosen by an Art Committee that included clients, local artists, staff and board members, and Jerome Markson, the architect of the building. Artists who live in the Queen West area were invited to make submissions.
We received 45 submissions and 6 were awarded project development grants and asked to prepare a model, drawings and a project proposal. The final selections were based on these submissions.
On the evening of April 24, 1998 the official unveiling of the art was celebrated by members of the art community and friends of Queen West.
Queen West has continued the integration of art in the Centre as part of the community building work and recognition of art as a healing medium. The Community Mosaic Project in 2012 led by artist Anna Camilleri is part of that continuing tradition.