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The Phoenix Centre

November 1, 2007
by root
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The Phoenix Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Society's Phoenix Centre is a $12 million (Canadian) integrated addiction services facility in North Surrey, British Columbia, that opened in March. It is the result of the Society's partnerships with three levels of government, community foundations, and private donors, all sharing a common vision of a safer, healthier community.

The Phoenix Centre brought three 10-bed facilities in the community under one roof. The 47,000-sq.-ft. facility includes 28 early stabilization addiction services beds, 36 furnished single-occupancy units in a transitional housing program, educational and employment assistance services, and a community center. Residents typically stay for a minimum of 90 days in the early stabilization program before turning to action plans for returning to work or school and entry into the transitional housing program.

The architectural challenge was to create a noninstitutional environment that would be interesting and exciting for the surrounding community to be involved in, as well as a space that would be safe, comfortable, and welcoming for individuals dealing with addictions and mental health issues and homelessness. Architect Chip Barrett worked with the Society to achieve these goals.

The Phoenix Centre's distinctive exterior design, with large back-lit logos high above arched façades (figure 1), welcomes everyone to a friendly, noninstitutional environment. A covered arcade wraps around the building, linking the various entrances and reducing the apparent scale of the facility. Hanging baskets on brick columns that support the arcade's vaulted ceiling invite both residents and visitors to make the pleasant journey around the building even in bad weather.

Figure 1. The Phoenix Centre Photography: Lindsey Donovan

Throughout the building warm earth tones create a calm and peaceful setting, and nine-foot ceilings provide open and airy spaces. Original paintings, created by an artist attuned to the issues of people affected by addiction, feature metaphors that include the human journey, courage, the soul's passion, and community connection/belonging. The paintings reflect themes of compassion, inspiration, and hope. Bev Nielsen of Nielsen Design Consultants, Ltd., helped create the warm, peaceful, and healing interior design.

The entry level includes part of the early stabilization unit, made up of seven double-occupancy rooms (figure 2) on two floors, which each wrap around a large activity lounge (figure 3) that looks out onto a spacious outdoor deck with patio furniture.

Figure 2. Double-occupancy room in early stabilization unit

Figure 3. Activity lounge

In the center of the long four-story building is a glass circulation core with the main staircase and elevator. Each floor has a lounge off the circulation core, which provides an abundance of natural light and views of trees and the western sky. The circulation core also serves as an unobtrusive and secure separation of the treatment and residential functions: Residential units are on one side of the core on three floors, and on the other side on the second and third floors are treatment "pods."

Each treatment pod includes a group room (figure 4), TV lounge (figure 5), washrooms, laundry facilities, and staff office. The treatment pods, accented with coffered ceilings, have sofas, chairs, and game tables to allow for various levels of privacy and interaction in a comfortable but manageable setting.

Figure 4. Group room

Figure 5. TV lounge

Each of the transitional housing program's 360-sq.-ft. units (figure 6) has a bathroom; small kitchen; sleeping, dining, and living areas; and a generous outdoor deck or patio, as well as access to laundry facilities on each floor. Residents receive intensive case management services while they carry out their employment and educational action plans. The employment center on the first floor offers a full range of vocational counseling and employment services coupled with access to state-of-the-art technology in two computer rooms.

Figure 6. Transitional housing unit

On the fourth floor, a large rooftop patio (

figure 7) with a barbecue and tables is the setting for a variety of outdoor community events. It offers picturesque views of the North Shore Mountains and the surrounding natural setting.