Area with armchairs, wooden ceiling, business environment, spiral staircase with golden handrails and glass balustrade.
Spiral staircase in the middle of an area with armchairs and sofas, with an acoustic wooden ceiling.
Acoustic wooden ceiling, armchairs and round tables, spiral staircase.
Open stairwell with wooden handrails and glass railings, red design sofas and armchairs.

Diamond Schmitt Architects has designed a research laboratory space for the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) at the MaRS West Tower in Toronto. The project includes new flexible wet and dry laboratories for genomics and informatics research and a statement staircase, by EeStairs, to inspire interaction among staff.

“Interconnectivity is at the heart of this project,” said Peggy Theodore, Associate at Diamond Schmitt Architects. “From work stations to the shared amenity space, the interior of the new OICR has been carefully designed to encourage researchers to co-operate, communicate and share ideas in the battle against cancer.”

The sixth floor wet labs are set out in a modular format with open concept island benches where researchers are able to work together and pool their expertise. Support labs and centralized equipment, including facilities for tissue and bacterial culture, ultra-low temperature freezer facilities and microscopy, sit alongside the wet labs for convenient access.

Acoustic wood and perforated gypsum ceilings reflect the commitment to creating the best work environment, whether the space will be used for research, meetings or as a social space. Centrally positioned meeting rooms, kitchen areas, a library and social spaces provide staff with areas to interact. Where possible all workspaces have been positioned with exterior views, flooding the workspaces with natural light.

“The staircase captures the fundamental principal of interconnectivity that underpins this project”

At the heart of the new OICR facility sits the convenience stair; a sweeping helical staircase, which provides practical access between floors and represents the work carried out by OICR. A considerable amount of genomics work undertaken at OICR deals with variant left-handed DNA, which is mirrored by the rise of the left-handed helical staircase.

More than just functional

“At EeStairs we believe that staircases should be more than just functional, they can be symbolic, and it was a privilege to work alongside a team of architects who shared this vision,” explains Cornelis van Vlastuin, EeStairs’ Creative Director. A white riser and internal balustrade teamed with one of EeStairs’ signature TransParancy® glass balustrades and sleek brushed stainless steel handrail gives the staircase a cutting-edge feel. The glass balustrade allows natural light to flow between each level. The treads of the staircase are finished in the same polished terrazzo used on the floor of each level, adding to the flow of the building.

“The staircase captures the fundamental principal of interconnectivity that underpins this project, and is finished with the same quality and attention to detail as the rest of the facility,” said Theodore.