The Tall Tree Project
Victoria’s award-winning Tall Tree Integrated Health Centre believes that the roots of happiness are in good health. They’ve built their brand and their facilities connecting health and happiness to nature, inspired by their first forested location at Mattick’s Farm in Saanich BC and the beautiful contemporary building designed by Cascadia Architects. When it came time to expand their practice into downtown Victoria, they again partnered with Cascadia Architects to reinterpret the brand and design language for a busy urban environment. Cascadia’s goal was to create a comfortable and welcoming space that felt natural within the constraints of an existing commercial space.
The building’s expansive exterior glazing brought lots of light into the space but posed a challenge with high acoustic reflection. Other hard surfaces and a high open ceiling only added to the problem. Cascadia designed the clinic with an open reception space and central, flexible exercise area to be used by multiple people at the same time. Accessed from this central space are 12 individual treatment rooms. The need for clear communication in the open space and minimal disturbances in the treatment rooms demanded a creative acoustic solution.
Early in the concept design phase of the project, the idea of an acoustic cloud around the central space emerged as a solution and Cascadia’s creative team considered how a tree form could be incorporated. The analogy of a west coast evergreen canopy seemed very appropriate to soften the design language, connect the spaces and mitigate reverberation.
As the concept of an acoustic tree canopy developed, Cascadia reached out to MilYu and Ayrsonics to bring the vison to life. The feature was designed as a custom undulating acoustic net, made from 12mm Moss Green ezoBord, to mimic the movement and light filtration of a forest canopy. Peter Johannknecht, Principal + Architect at Cascadia Architects, commented that “the undulation of the acoustic cloud was of interest and importance to us. Not only as a shape, but also to improve the acoustics, by breaking the sound waves even further.”
Throughout the design process, the engineering team at Ayrsonics and MilYu worked with Cascadia Architects and contractor Jawl Properties, to fine tune the undulation, accommodate light and sprinkler locations and wrap the feature precisely around the treatment room walls. Roughly the size of a tennis court, the feature was manufactured and in 8’x8’ sections for easier installation. Feature elements were coded and labeled, with baffle sections cut with dovetail joints at connection points. Ayrsonics’ shop drawings noted suspension locations and leveling hardware allowed adjustment to perfect the installation.
According to Johannknecht, the custom ezoBord acoustic feature is integral to the design and function of the space and a significant contributor to the success of the project. “The acoustic cloud has been very well received by everyone working in the clinic, but particularly by the clients coming to the clinic. The soft shape and form is calming, the green is warm and the lighting through the open grid is giving a contemporary design with various elements of interest.” Johannknecht summarized his comments noting that, if the feature had been removed for budget or other reasons, the project would not be as successful as it has been.