Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning

“It will be a beacon of research and learning in the heart of Toronto’s Discovery District and a magnet for the best researchers from around the globe.”

Mary Jo Haddad, former President and CEO, The Hospital for Sick Children

At 21 stories, the Hospital for Sick Children’s (SickKids) Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning is the largest child health research tower in the world and Canada’s largest pediatric centre.

Given the building’s dense urban context, the Gilgan Centre provides SickKids with a new identity in vertical neighborhood form. Designed deliberately to overcome the silo culture inherent in the elevator connections of tall buildings, the centre’s research floors are clustered around “neighbourhoods”. These neighborhoods are comprised of labs oriented around 2-3 open storey collaborative lounges. The labs are configured for maximum flexibility to accommodate diverse research practices, and the lounges – connected by stairs from these labs – serve as gathering spaces for scientists, clinicians and students alike. The lounges, defined by in striking curvilinear forms, extend beyond the building to offer extraordinary views of the city skyline.

Tasked with bringing together two thousand research and support staff, who were previously dispersed across various buildings in downtown Toronto, the Gilgan Centre successfully facilitates interdisciplinary exchange and drives innovation and discovery in children’s health. The Centre houses a 250-seat auditorium, breakout rooms, conference rooms and a double-height multi-purpose room. The Learning Commons at the base of the tower is connected by a three-storey glazed lobby and learning stair which expands to an open amphitheater for informal gatherings, discussions and lectures. Moreover, the building’s connection to the streetscape is heightened with the purposefully transparent Learning Commons, visible to all passerby on the outside to demystify the work within and bring ‘science to the street.’

The Centre’s high performance building envelope, likened to the Northern Lights, utilizes a frit pattern to create a bold presence while assisting with heat gain, glare control and daylight harvesting. This contrasts the clarity of the vision glass in the lower level Learning Commons. Together, these visual elements enhance the Gilgan Centre’s identity, projecting a beacon of distinct colour and luminosity outwards which catalyzes the interactions of scientists and healthcare professionals stimulating discovery and the exchange of ideas within, heralding a new tower typology for research laboratories.

Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Client The Hospital for Sick Children
Completion 17/09/2013
Sustainability LEED Gold Certified


In Association with HDR
Photography Tom Arban


Awards See all project awards
2014 ed+c Magazine Excellence in Design Awards – First Runner Up, Institutional
2014 Pug Awards, Peoples Choice Awards for Architecture – Honourable Mention, Best Institutional Building
Team See full project team
Duncan Bates
Joshua Cohen
David Dow
Jim Graves
Duncan Higgins
Michael Jess
Martin Kristensen
Nelson Lai
Ana Maria Llanos
Tara Plett
Thom Pratt
Donald Schmitt
Michael Szabo
Joseph Troppmann
Javier Zeller