Yesterday, in Part 1 of our series we brought you in through the forest of scaffolding currently set up to finish the lower floors of the SickKids Research and Learning Centre tower on Bay Street. Today we go up through the building's signature, the strip of three-storey atria which will provide both casual gathering and formal meeting places for researches throughout the Diamond Schmitt Architects-designed the building.

SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoSickKids Research and Learning Centre from the northeast, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

If you look carefully when peering up at the strip of these spectacular rooms, you will witness a study of state-of-completion with most complete atrium at the bottom of course, and the one with most to finish still, up top. Going up through these gives up a chance to consider several steps of the finishing process.

SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoSickKids Research and Learning Centre atria from the northeast, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

To start, a little reminder of the general intention in regard to the finished atria, from the renderings:

SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoSickKids Research and Learning Centre atrium, image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

Above, the view from a typical lower floor, and below, the view from a typical middle floor.

SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoSickKids Research and Learning Centre atrium, image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

The diagram below shows us where things will go in the building, and gives us an idea of why the atria are each three floors tall: the bright rooms are meant to bring together people from each of the working groups are across each three-floor section of the building. With their inviting windows, and views over Bay Street and beyond, the rooms may just bring the right people together informally where an overheard conversation may spur a whole cascade of innovation: create a place where everyone wants to go, and those who may never have talked to discuss research may just bump into each other and promote more discussion.

SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoSickKids Research and Learning Centre tower layout, image courtesy of SickKids Foundation

So, what do the atria look like at the moment? The atrium on floors 5 and 6 gives us our first peek, one where the windows were going in last week (and where they have since been completed).

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 5-6 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

We get an idea in the next two photos of just how clear the low-iron glass is that has been installed here: it doesn't even look like it's there.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 5-6 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 5-6 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Clips to attach the curtainwall window sections to the curving steel support beams can be seen while a construction worker adjusts the tension of the strengthening vertical cables.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 5-6 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Preparations are made for the top course of windows to be added to this atrium.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 5-6 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 5-6 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

We rise up above to the 8th and 9th floor atrum now. The spider-like machine below is there to lift window panel sections down to the workers in the atrium below. You can also see a curved steel plate across the middle of the open window area ready to accept the curvature of the glass for this atrium. Notice the vertical strengthening cables in this photo and below it as well.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 8-9 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Curved window panel sections wait their turn to be installed.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 8-9 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Up again, this time to the 10-11-12 atrium. No curved steel plate up here yet for the windows, but you will see it waiting on the floor in the background. Below that, a close-up of it.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 10-11-12 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Here are the laser-cut steel plates waiting to be installed into place in this atrium. 38 mm thick and 275 mm deep, these solid steel plates will resist the wind loads on the atria windows, providing a supporting beam which the windows are clipped into at each middle level of the atrium.

Steel for an Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoSteel brace in Atrium 10-11-12 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

The same 10-11-12 atrium from the top floor now. Notice the convenience stairs in place behind the balcony screens.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 10-11-12 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Below, a close-up of the cable fasterners, and the view down Bay Street.

View from an Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoLooking out from Atrium 10-11-12 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Here we also get a close-up look at the blue and green glazing. White striped ceramic frit is applied on the exterior over both the vision glass (fancy term for windows) and the spandrel sections below them.

Glazing details at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoGlazing details from Atrium 10-11-12 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Here we look across the 10-11-12 atrium from the top level.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 10-11-12 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Below, just a quick look at the atrium on floors 13-14-15, from its middle floor. No permanent balcony screens or railing are in here yet. Wall studs are in place in the background while ducts wait to be put installed above the lab spaces behind.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 13-14-15 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Another atrium up, and the convenience stairs have not been installed yet between floors 16 and 18.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 16-17-18 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Finally we get to the topmost atrium, on floors 19-20-21. The most remains to be finished here of course.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 19-20-21 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Looking straight up to the ceiling three floors above, we see paint markings around the anchors of the light fixtures which will eventually hang in each atrium.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoCeiling of Atrium 19-20-21 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

From the 21st floor we look over the atrium. Draw the curving frames of the windows in your mind while you imagine what this will look like when complete, and remember how clear the glass installed in the lowest atrium is: these rooms will have fantastic vistas over the city. (Hmm, time to go back to school to pursue a career in medical research? I want to work here!)

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 19-20-21 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Same kinda thing, but let's aim the camera north. These atria do beg the question 'if inviting gathering areas are sure to spur medical innovation, wouldn't similar atria in other towers inspire similar conversations in other types of business in the city?' Could we someday see more spaces like this in office towers around town? The business community seems pretty timid when it comes to design here: this could be the kick in the pants they need to rethink their own buildings. 

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 19-20-21 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Looking down at the atrium floor we see two different curves: one for this atrium, and a wider one below it. Every second atrium as the building rises will have different curves in its glazing to present an alternating pattern as the tower rises.

We also notice below that the area closest to the future windows is currently sporting a pool of water. More than merely indicating that it rained as we toured, the little pool shows that a space has been left under the floors here to install ducts which will keep air flowing up the windows once they have been installed. The airflow will prevent condensation on the double-pane windows when it rains.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoFloor of Atrium 19-20-21 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Another shot across the atrium, from behind where the stairs will eventually be.

Atrium at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoAtrium 19-20-21 at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Done with the atria, we assure ourselves that plumbers are not going without work in Toronto at the moment.

Pipes to plumb at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoPipes to plumb at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Finally, we get closer to that rainy view up the Bay Street canyon to the north. Hmm, it'll be Molecules, Therapies, and Infectious Diseases up here, and the view makes that almost sound glamorous.

View from the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoView from the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

Tomorrow we are back again, and we will be taking you to the the roof, and to the little mechanical floor below it. Little only if you consider 9 metre-high ceilings little though. Hmm, I'll have that rephrased for tomorrow.

Up to the roof at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, TorontoUp to the roof at the SickKids Research and Learning Centre, image by Craig White 2012.05.09

What do you think? Look like a cool place to work? Been thinking about a Medical Science degree?