Design Writings: The Art of Adaptive Re-use

Sitting un-used, the former St. Joseph’s hospital in Peterborough was purchased by our client in 2009.  To give the beautiful brick buildings new life, the owner set about converting the complex into mid and luxury apartments in several phases. With the support of the City of Peterborough approximately 18,140 square meters of space was or is in the process of being converted into approximately 235 residential units, including commercial spaces.

After the site acquisition, the hospital grounds were sub divided into six properties to facilitate development and allow for rental and condo development opportunities. A nursing school and 1950-expansion were the first portions of the complex to be converted into rental residential units. 69 residential rental units opened in April 2016. bnkc architects is currently working on the design of 27 rental units in the 1922-addition, expected to be complete in 2020. The firm is also working on the design for a 9-storey mixed-use residential condominium that is currently being marketed: East City Condos.

 The approach taken to the adaptive re-use of this asset by the client was one of extreme care and consideration. Care needs to be taken in understanding the context in which the redevelopment is positioned. Situated in the heart of the Peterborough community, the Hospital site, for most of its history provided a centre for the community with activities extending well beyond the provision of just healthcare. So, preserving the history and fabric of the buildings was paramount, while addressing the larger needs of the community to provide alternate forms of housing.

For the existing buildings, the strategy taken was to, wherever possible, retain as much of the existing infrastructure (walls, stairs, finishes, etc..) of the buildings as possible. Work within the envelope that previously existed celebrates the qualities of the previous spaces, including 10 foot ceilings and wide corridors. The result being that every unit is unique, but retains aspects of the memory of its former use.

When considering the new multi-residential condominium, taking cues from the existing fabric was of prime importance. The use of masonry, consideration of punched windows and generous floor to ceiling heights were enhanced, while incorporating a playfulness in the articulation of these elements to signal that these suites are unique and have a different intended use.