Toronto Birth Centre

Regent Park, Toronto

We designed Toronto’s first birth centre to create a safe and inclusive environment for Indigenous and marginalized women, and to establish a publicly funded alternative to hospital and home births.

We were hired by Toronto Birth Centre, Women’s College Hospital, and the Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto to design Toronto’s first birth centre. Working in close collaboration with midwives and Elders, we designed a birth centre decorated with imagery and materials that contribute to a natural, calming, and non-institutional atmosphere. These include richly saturated autumnal coloured accent walls, wood millwork and furniture, porcelain lamps resembling birch bark, privacy screens with imagery of tall grasses and birch groves, and murals by Ontario-based, Metis artist Christi Belcourt, depicting traditional ways of passing down knowledge. 

Visitors enter Toronto Birth Centre (TBC) through a cedar-clad vestibule, whose scent and texture mark the transition from daily life into a nurturing space (one’s sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy).  Each of the birthing suites is made up of three primary zones: a tub, a bedroom, and a bathroom. Labouring people are greeted by a freestanding white birthing tub, immediately reinforcing the goal of an active birth. The tub tapers in at the bottom, allowing midwives and partners to get in close and support the laboring client from all angles. One end of the tub is positioned against a ledge, providing the birthing person with an intuitive place to rest their head. Grab bars and slings support a variety of position changes and stretching for pain management during labour. The bathroom is accessible through large doors at both ends of the space, and features a large walk-in shower, creating seamless circulation between all labor areas.

Highly flexible lighting and temperature controls allow delivering clients to customize the environment for their ideal delivery. An electric fireplace and mural offer focal points for meditation, and a curtain at the front of each room allows family and friends to be present during the birth while also maintaining privacy. 

Outside the birthing suites, there are two waiting areas on either side of an open kitchen so that families and friends have a domestic style gathering place in which to celebrate the births. The communal kitchen encourages people to come together and share their food and stories. 

Upstairs, the midwifery reception and exam rooms, and TBC’s administrative offices line the perimeter walls. The focus is directed towards the heart of the floor, where a flexible communal space houses pre-natal classes, post-natal workshops, community events, gatherings, and celebrations.

“The design process involved ongoing, in-depth consultations with midwives, clients, and clinical specialists and several iterations of full-scale birth room mock-ups. The result is a facility designed for how midwives work and a model for birth rooms that support the philosophy of “active” birthing.”

 

Anna DiNardo, Healthcare Design

Awards

2014 IIDA Healthcare Interior Design – Honourable Mention

Media

Toronto Life – (June 2015) Reasons to love Toronto now: #22 because the Toronto Birth Centre makes labour much less laborious.
Canadian Architect – (September 2014) Happy Birthday
Healthcare Design – (June 2014) PHOTO TOUR: Toronto Birth Centre
Toronto Star – (May 2014) Midwifery comes of age in Ontario
Globe and mail – (May 2014) Birth centres: A middle ground between hospital and home
Objekt (Ukraine) – (September 2014) A Revolutionary Birth