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Tsartlip Health Centre

Type: Public

Date: 2012

Location: Brentwood Bay, BC

Firm: McFarland Marceau Architects

The Tsartlip Health Centre is a 520 m2 facility located on the South Saanich Indian Re- serve, 25 km north of Victoria in British Columbia. With a membership of 920, the Tsartlip First Nation will rely on the new community care facility to provide a broad spectrum of health services including counselling, dental care, medical exams, prenatal classes, elders programs, diabetes education, nutrition, and early childhood support. The new facility will also provide gathering spaces for after-hours community events, celebrations and ceremonies.

Material choices for the new building draw from the trees and rock that surround the building. Rough-sawn entry portals are constructed of timber that has was harvested on site. The entire wood roof structure is exposed to interior spaces. The dark exterior cladding of cementitious panels, irregular in colour like thermal rock that surrounds the building, provides a stone-like texture that helps integrate the building within the surrounding rock slope and forest. Yet while the building is intended to project an abstract composition of form, light and nature, the building is formally linked to it’s aboriginal heritage. The long low roof and planar facade recall the big house form of traditional Coast Sailish building, while series of small windows on the north facade, is a filter to the community. The windows glow orange at night hinting at the activity within.

The client’s holistic approach to community health necessitated an understanding of how architecture can create healing environments. A focus on preventative care requires a person, and a community, to look deep within themselves to help change habits that may have been developed through generations. The patient becomes an active participant in their own physical, mental and spiritual health. As such, the idea of transformation became a key concept in developing the architecture. Healing is transformation. Light changing throughout the day. The seasons transform. The contrast between open and closed, dark and light, rough and smooth, all suggest transformation. Studies show that for certain health related conditions, group visits can be an effective way of producing better results. This attitude also builds naturally on the Salish tradition of group activities. In contrast to many other health facilities that focus on individual exam rooms and activities, the program was re-distributed to create a large community health room as a main component of the building. Many preventive care programs such as diabetes, nutrition, dental and prenatal class are best delivered in a group setting, rather than on an individual basis. This approach helps patients remove the stigmas associated with some chronic diseases and focuses instead on the transformation of daily life and habits – as part of a larger community.


Completed with previous firm, McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd., Vancouver BC. Jesse Garlick was the projects architect during design and construction. He started the project after programming and schematic design was complete.