KICX for Kids Club House at Neo Kids

KICX for Kids Club House at Neo Kids

Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture and Sudbury’s Regional Hospital team up to improve children’s treatment experience.

KICX for Kids Club House at Neo Kids

Until I was ten, I lived in Kapuskasing, a small town in northern Ontario. Some of you may have heard of it, and I imagine a good number of you haven’t. I remember it well, and I remember that when I moved to eastern Ontario, there were some fundamental differences. One of those differences was what would happen if you needed to go to a hospital or a specialist for a complex treatment. In the GTA, you go to the hospital, grumble about parking and go inside. In northern Ontario, you pack for a few days, get in the car, drive for a morning and afternoon, eventually get to where you’re going, check in, go to the hospital, grumble about parking, stay however long you need to and then drive back. This is expensive and exhausting, so I empathize with anyone who has to make that trip.

Me, I was very pigeon-toed. Not the worst situation, but it still required the trip.

In order to have my gait corrected, I had to go to a specialist in Toronto. My parents were in their 20’s, we took the Ontario Northlander down to ‘the City’ and I was given braces that I would wear at night to bring my feet out. It was painful and, that too, I remember well. People say you don’t remember pain, maybe they’re right, but I remember hating bed time because there was no distraction from the pain. My father told me it was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do; listening to me cry, but knowing he was trying to make my problem go away.

Fast forward a few years, at about seven years old, I visit Sudbury for the first time. Not that much bigger than Kapuskasing, Sudbury had a building that may have shaped why I ended up studying architecture. It’s called Science North, and it was designed in part, by a firm that is now called Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture. I remember quite well seeing the porcupine that kids were allowed to pet, ‘only front to back’ they warned. Although it looked friendly enough, I wasn’t interested in petting it, but I was pretty impressed with the building. It seemed massive and so much more impressive than anything I had seen until then. It seemed like a temple dedicated to science, nature, knowledge and technology. My mom and grandparents brought me there, I believe as a distraction, because once again, I was visiting a specialist about my feet. This isn’t about me, but I want to provide context because what happens to you when you’re young can shape who you become.

KICX for Kids Club House at Neo Kids  Fast forward again, this time about twenty-five years. My feet work, they point straight forward, and I find myself back in Sudbury helping out a group of architects and interior designers at Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture to get familiar with Revit and the concepts of BIM. One of the team, Denis Comtois, mentioned to me on the first day that he felt quite nervous about the training. I tried to ease his mind by saying it was my job to be nervous about the training, his success was mine and I meant every word. Any educator, trainer or teacher is proud to see their students succeed, and is concerned when they don’t. When I saw the results of Denis’ first project, believe me, I was very impressed and proud to have helped. I’m not taking credit for the work. This was YBSA and Denis spending a lot of time with this design, in painstaking detail, and for his first project in BIM, I can only imagine the frustration and aggravation he encountered along the way. BUT, what a great learning experience.Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture and Regional Hospital, Health Sciences North

Let’s talk a little more about the project and design firm. Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture has helped to shape the built environment of northern Ontario since 1964 including the regional hospital, Health Sciences North.  A unit in the hospital, NEO Kids, is Northeastern Ontario’s hub for specialized children’s care.  YBSA has developed a concept which would renovate space to provide a distraction treatment room with a calming atmosphere for often overwhelmed patients.

When Denis showed me his concepts for the project, I was really intrigued because I knew it would be challenging but Revit would do a fantastic job. This project had a lot of heart and soul and I could feel the enthusiasm Denis, a father of two, had for this project. I didn’t know what a ‘distraction room’ was until he showed and described it to me.  Described in the KICX article, it was a place where:

necessary but invasive procedures are performed on children who have been admitted to the hospital. These procedures include lumbar punctures, the insertion of catheters and intravenous line, and drawing of blood.

These procedures are not done in the patient’s individual rooms. The clinical team wants the patient rooms to be “procedure free” so they can remain a calming, “safe” environment for children.” 1

Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture and Regional Hospital, Health Sciences NorthThe primary goal of the project was to create a peaceful atmosphere for children receiving treatment and mitigate the usual intimidating nature of a hospital. The distraction room needed to conceal equipment but still have it accessible for procedures. To achieve this, YBSA designed millwork in the shape of a club house complete with LED backlighting and frosted windows. 3D trees, leaf-shaped ceiling and floor details provide the tranquility of nature and pin light provide the sense of a star lit sky. Televisions mounted on the ceiling and opposite the stretcher provide more means of distraction while children undergo treatments or procedures. Murals of nature scenes with a village, trees and a myriad of friendly animals cover the sliding doors that lead to the other pieces of equipment. Throughout the rest of the layout, the idea of playfulness and fun continues to the nursing station with a log cabin theme. The rendered images you see in this article were all done with Revit exclusively, which goes to show Revit is not just a documentation tool, but provides a great solution to help visualize how stakeholder funding will be utilized.

I felt compelled to write about this for my June entry of BIMTECH because I felt it was a worthy cause and will help many families in the north. It struck a cord with me, coming from northern Ontario myself. This new hospital will provide a place for children to get help without their families having to make the trip all the way to Toronto. I’d like to congratulate and thank Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture and Denis for their dedication in moving to BIM and their hard work to make a better future for children in Ontario. I’d also like to thank Regional Hospital Health Sciences North for their vision and the positive effects their work and research has had on my own family in the recent past, in helping someone very dear to me stay healthy and safe.

To see more great work from Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture, you can visit their website at

1. Quote taken from KICX 917 Article found at the following link:
Science North Photo taken from
Renders provided with permission from Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture and Regional Hospital, Health Sciences North.

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