Governor General’s Gold Medal for Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex

Image of Health Sciences Complex
Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 3:00pm
Elaine Smith

The silvery facade of the U of T Mississauga campus’ new Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex has a golden sheen these days.

The distinctive four-storey building, designed by Kongats Architects of Toronto, was announced recently as one of the winners of a 2012 Governor General’s Gold Medal for Architecture.  This awards program, administered jointly by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, recognizes outstanding achievement in recently built projects by Canadian architects.

“Receiving a Governor General's Medal is a great honour,” said Alar Kongats, lead architect for the project.  “It is this country's most significant public recognition of the importance of the quality of our built environment.”

Kongats’ contribution to the revitalized built environment on the UTM campus is notable, said the prize jury, comprising architects worldwide.

"A large institutional building is articulated and humanised by skilful massing and the inventive treatment of the facade,” reads the citation, noting “the quality of detailing is exceptional and the sophisticated use of materials lifts the building into a class of its own."

The four-storey, 5,960-square-metre complex, which officially opened in November 2011, houses the Mississauga Academy of Medicine as well as U of T’s internationally renowned biomedical communications program, Department of Anthropology offices and research laboratories, lecture theatres and medical teaching classrooms. It was built with a combination of $30.3 million in provincial funding and private donations of $12 million from Terrence Donnelly and $10 million from Carlo Fidani, a gift that also included funds for scholarships and a chair in family and community medicine.

The complex is designed as a series of stacked “boxes” wrapped in a skin of glass and metal, maximizing daylight and picturesque views and providing communal terraces and rooftop garden space. The result is a building that has what the jury called “a distinctive set-piece quality amid its campus neighbours. Interiors are luminous and civilised with ample natural light, and the sliding stacked volumes create terraces for encounter and engagement.”

The stellar quality of the health science complex’s exterior is matched by the excellence inside, says Professor Deep Saini, U of T vice-president and principal of U of T Mississauga.

“The Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Centre has raised the bar both for learning and for design,” Saini says. “Its offices, research laboratories, lecture theatres and medical teaching classrooms provide students in medicine, biomedical communications and anthropology with the most-up-to-date pedagogical resources available. How appropriate that its exterior--the result of much forethought about both form and function--should also be celebrated for excellence.”

The Donnelly complex is not the campus’ only award-winning new building. The $70-million Instructional Centre, which opened in August 2011, earned one of six international interior design awards given in March by the International Interior Design Association.

“The University of Toronto Mississauga is very quickly becoming one of the nicest university campuses in Canada,” said Kongats.  “The university has placed an real importance on how new buildings fit into the overall campus context and on the quality of individual buildings ... this commitment in turn inspires one do the best work one can possibly do.”