Lemay designs mental health research building inspired by the human brain
The Douglas University Institute for Mental Health mandated Lemay to design a 1,500 sq m centre housing state-of-the-art brain and mental health research facility. The location chosen for the building is in harmony with the configuration of the 150-acre campus and minimises the impact on the built and natural environment. Its public façade on the access road will create a prestigious civic address and, on a symbolic level, break with an outdated habit of hiding mental health issues.
In terms of its integration, the new center is concordant with the adjacent buildings by its massing, alignment, height and materiality. The building’s configuration is inspired by the structure of the human brain, with spaces dedicated to human research located in the front of the building and those dedicated to animal research located in the back. A central north-south circulation axis leads from the public zones to the private zones and separates the 'brain' into two 'hemispheres'.
The brain analogy is pushed further on the lateral façades, where the building appears to be cut into 'slices' by the fenestration and bands of vertical masonry. To protect the interior spaces from the sun’s rays, the frame is fronted with a decorative lattice whose motifs evoke the sinuous spirals of the cerebral cortex.
For the exterior siding materials, the architects favoured a reduced palette of three materials used in a coherent fashion: masonry for most of the building envelope because of its integration into the existing context; two tones of red clay bricks on the lateral façades to echo the color patterns of the context and to create the vertical bands representing the 'scan slices'; and a cladding of painted light concrete panels to fit with the masonry.
The project will target a LEED silver rating. Its sustainable elements include the preservation of the existing mature trees, the collection and reuse of grey waters, efficient HVAC systems, reflective roof, and reduction of rainwater runoff and of hard non-porous surfaces.