Transformative Vision Unveiled for Indigenous-Settler Health and Wellness Centre at Seneca Polytechnic College

A novel collaborative initiative between Two Row Architect and DIALOG has been unveiled for Seneca Polytechnic College in Toronto, Canada. The proposal introduces a transformative concept for the establishment of a Health and Wellness Centre, positioned at the eastern periphery of the Newnham Campus. This venture endeavors to revitalize an aging sports facility into a multi-tiered edifice, catering to the diverse academic community encompassing more than 30,000 individuals.

DIALOG Partner Craig Applegath conveyed, “Numerous visionary concepts have underscored the genesis of this design. A pivotal concept involves manifesting an architectural embodiment of reconciliation. This structure is envisaged to epitomize not only the harmonious convergence of Indigenous and settler cultures but also to serve as a gateway for aspiring Canadian students, offering a glimpse into the potential contours of a unified and reconciled future Canada. Furthermore, this initiative is underpinned by a resolute commitment to ecological stewardship. The blueprint features provisions for achieving net-zero carbon footprint, leveraging sustainable mass timber construction, and operating as an exemplary showcase of environmental consciousness.”

The envisioned Centre holds a dual role as the new headquarters for the Seneca Student Federation (SSF) and as a hub for an array of student-centric amenities, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Drawing inspiration from the symbolism of a drum circle, the architectural concept embodies ideals of equilibrium, parity, entirety, and interconnection.

The architectural teams have espoused an array of eco-conscious principles, encompassing rainwater harvesting, solar energy harnessing, geothermal utilization, and the integration of renewable materials such as mass timber. The innovative incorporation of a verdant roof and a central “drum courtyard” graced with a fire pit serves as a culmination of the design ethos. The financial backing for this endeavor is partially derived from SSF capital contributions amassed over successive years from the student body.

Erik Skouris of Two Row Architects emphasized, “The circular configuration, symbolizing a resonating drum, inherently encapsulates a holistic healing paradigm in students’ lives, grounded in Indigenous perspectives on perception and existence. Numerous teachings across Turtle Island expound upon the circle as a representation of equilibrium, uniformity, entirety, and interconnection. The circle remains unbroken and comprised of equal, interlinked, and boundless points. The central courtyard symbolizes the Creator, around which all life forms—students included—congregate. All educational initiatives emanate from this nucleus, enjoying an exclusive and immediate rapport with it. The drum resounds our unity with the entire cosmos during our movements and augments our interpersonal connections through collective drumming sessions.”

Scheduled for potential groundbreaking later this winter, the project anticipates finalization by 2026, promising an innovative chapter in academic and architectural synergy.