Did You Know that Avon Crest, Stratford’s original hospital building, was opened in May 1891? It was designed by George F. Durand, also the architect of the old Pumphouse (1883, now Gallery Stratford), the Perth County Court House (1886) and the Jail (1886). Stratford City council granted five acres of land, overlooking the Avon River and citizens contributed 75% of construction costs. Renamed RECU (Rehabilitation and Extended Care Unit) and then Avon Crest, the building benefited from periodic extensions, upgrades and renovations, supported by federal and provincial funds. Avon Crest is undesignated and since 1983 plans for its destruction/replacement have been proposed.
There are three strong reasons for retaining and re-using this building:
The greenest building is the one you already have because the construction industry is wasteful and creates huge CO2 emissions. Even more wasteful is the demolition of existing buildings and the consignment of its materials to landfill.
According to The Guardian, “In the UK, the construction industry accounts for 60% of all materials used, while creating a third of all waste and generating 45% of all CO2 emissions in the process. It is a greedy, profligate and polluting monster, gobbling up resources and spitting out the remains in intractable lumps. On our current course, we are set to triple material extraction in 30 years, and triple waste production by 2100.” [i]
No matter who owns the deed to Avon Crest the building belongs to the people of Stratford and region, who donated the land and the funds for construction, and who should be consulted about its fate.
Hospitals are repositories of memory and social meaning, places intimately associated with birth, illness and death. They are sites and symbols of progress in science and technology. According to Cameron Logan, an expert on hospital architecture and its preservation, hospitals “represent the expanding activity of governments and of the medical profession in managing populations….” [ii]
Finally, hospitals are architectural landmarks, important and sometimes beautiful buildings. Logan believes that,” architects, preservation professionals, and municipal-planning departments must think about modern hospitals as historic places, whether they want to or not.” [iii]
For those interested in reading more about Stratford General Hospital, see: Dean Robinson For Your Health: Stratford General Hospital 1891-2002 (Stratford: Stratford General Hospital, 2003)
Dan Schneider “Avon Crest: Stratford’s First Hospital at a Crossroads,” ACO Newsletter (Issue 3, June 2014), http://www.stratford-perthcountybranchaco.ca/uploads/files/June_2014_Newsletter.pdf.
On the re-use of hospital buildings see: Annmarie Adams “Demolish or Re-use? Learning from the Montreal Children’s Hospital,” ARQ (Dec 2019) and Cameron Logan, “Preserving Health: Modern Hospitals as Historic Places,” APT Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 2/3 (2011).
Oliver Wainwright, “The case for … never demolishing another building,” The Guardian (Jan 13, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2020/jan/13/the-case-for-never-demolishing-another-building?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR0Zs18QhaBTAbKGUQfenchpWo_NCJou86IBvvg9HZ1HiaZ5iW7i3pT0Xvk
Cameron Logan, “Preserving Health: Modern Hospitals as Historic Places,” APT Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 2/3 (2011), p. 48, https://www.jstor.org/stable/41228984?seq=1
Logan, p. 48.