Stanton Hospital: The northern light of modern hospital care

Government of NWT

Year Completed



Government of NWT


Yellowknife, NWT


280,000 SF


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Designing in the traditional language

At its best, healthcare design can promote healing. In creating a new hospital in the heart of the Northwest Territories, we sought wisdom from all 14 First Nations who steward the land on which we were building. The new structure supports the full spectrum of high-tech and traditional medicine, including a sacred space in the heart of the building for Indigenous healing ceremonies. With this $350 million, public-private partnership (P3) project, we proposed and delivered a free-standing concept that would meet a diversity of stakeholder needs, while standing as a citadel of modern medicine inspired by the traditions and spirituality of the Northwest Territories.



Framing a future by recognizing a rich history

The existing site presented significant challenges to building for patient care, while adding time-consuming construction precautions and delays. There were many stakeholder interests to balance, while also meeting a fast-tracked design and construction schedule. In addition, respecting the needs of the local Indigenous community and the many other groups immigrating to Yellowknife and the surrounding regions of the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut required careful balancing of contemporary and traditional features.



Respect for indigenous cultures

We thoroughly reviewed an illustrative design that incorporated a significant new build and renovation scope of work. After assessing the risks and scheduling implications associated with construction, we proposed instead a newly built, free-standing hospital. This option offered a more flexible, long-term solution and better value for money. Additionally, this strategy avoided the risks and limitations associated with renovating or integrating with the existing, outdated hospital facility.

Respecting the local Indigenous context, we used collaborative activities to engage with each of the 14 local First Nations’ Bands to better understand their traditions and healing practices. Workshops and visits to the Prince of Wales Indigenous Museum ensured that our design choices were correctly informed by traditional healing practices and had authentic representation of colours and imagery.



Intuitive institutional thinking

Patient-centric design can substantially improve how patients experience a hospital, allowing healing to begin the moment they enter the building. Taking advantage of views and using the N.W.T. landscape for inspiration, our goal was to create an environment of healing through a sense of place. Each level of the facility represents a different landscape of the North: lakes, arctic, barren lands, mountains, rivers, and forests, featuring the Aurora Borealis as the unifying concept.

The first level features a ‘public spine’, which acts as a circulation corridor linking ground floor medical areas and shared spaces. Flanked with Indigenous art and imagery, it leads to an eating area and communal lounge.

Taking more cues from the environment, lighting filaments on the building’s tower can be seen at night subtly echoing the Northern Lights. Unique curative highlights include a non-denomination sacred space with angled glazing. Inspired by the tepee, the space enables people to gather for reflection and impromptu ceremonies.

The remedial advantages of natural light are also employed to full effect. The glass-enclosed cafeteria and the well-lit atrium are positioned adjacent to therapeutic gardens. Copper and other colours native to the area add to the natural feeling throughout the interior, creating a comforting familiarity and restorative calm. Benefitting from the natural surroundings, plans are scheduled for a ceremonial circle to be built near Northern flora and fauna.



Bringing state-of-the-art patient care to the North

The new structure doubled Stanton’s modern clinical care capacity to 280,000 square feet and provides 100 in-patient beds in single-occupancy patient rooms. Receiving awards of excellence from the VRCA in 2020, it is the largest construction project to date in Northwest Territories’ history.

A truly unique healthcare facility, Stanton Territorial Hospital stands as a beacon of collaboration that reflects its environment and distinct cultural mosaic.

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