BY CRAIG GILBERT
Designing Ontario?s first medical school in over three decades wasn?t brain surgery, but it offered more than a couple of unique challenges to Sudbury-based Nicholls Yallowega Bélanger Architects.
Louis Belanger, senior architect on the Northern Ontario Medical School project, said there were numerous experts brought in to consult on the building?s design and more than a little direction from university faculty on how to lay out the technology contained within it.
?One major challenge was incorporating flexibility into the building,? he said.
?It will grow as the years go by, and a number of different people will be using it, so we had to find a way to build spaces that will be multi-use and able to change.?
To accommodate large groups that will splinter off into smaller ones, there had to be a variety of space sizes, and walls that could open or close to adapt to the needs of students and faculty.
?The design is highly aimed at student-oriented spaces. I think we?ve set a new standard for higher-level educational buildings that others will look to in the future.?
Belanger said the biggest unforeseen problem was the level of technology to be installed in the school.
?We had a lot of direction from NOMS and Laurentian personnel on how to incorporate all these components into the design and where to put them. We had regular user meetings and brought in several experts, for example on cutting-edge lab design. There was lots of different input.?
He said the exterior of the building was a challenge of balances, the question being how to make NOMS fit in on Laurentian?s campus but retain a distinct look of its own.
?The Laurentian campus has a very strong character. We wanted something that would fit in with its neighbours but have an identity of its own.?
The NOMS will be built adjoining the Health Sciences Education Resource Centre, down the hill from the single student residence high-rise.
Site preparation on the Laurentian Campus began in late January with excavating, drilling and rock blasting followed by site services installation, according to a Laurentian release.
Planning for the physical structure began in mid-2003. A ground-breaking ceremony for NOMS was held last Friday.
The construction contract for the medical school will be awarded in late April and the construction period will extend from May 2004 to July 2005, just weeks before the school admits its first class of students.
The NOMS will boast 6,000 square metres of space on three floors.
Teaching areas will include a SMART classroom (which will likely include videoconferencing technology, since the two campuses are to be linked electronically), 12 small seminar rooms, an 80-seat lecture theatre and a 330 sq. m. multipurpose teaching space.
The school will also feather a multipurpose research lab occupying more than a square kilometre, a 300-square metre library as well as the requisite administrative and academic office space.
Construction of the West Campus at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay will begin this summer.
NOMS will open in September 2005 with 56 students in year one, 32 in Sudbury and 24 in Thunder Bay.