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The Perspective
The Perspective

July 11, 2019

From the Atrium to Project Horizon: And everything in between

A Perspective from Peter Sawras, Director of Facilities Planning at SickKids. He shares his unique bond with the hospital – from when he started as an external design consultant in 1985, assisting with the SickKids’ Atrium, to the moment his son was diagnosed with leukemia and treated at SickKids, to helping forge a new hospital with the Project Horizon redevelopment project.


Peter Sawras

When I was brought on as an external design consultant for The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in 1985, I quickly felt a personal commitment to the hospital. By creating spaces where clinical staff cared for patients, I felt that I was supporting them in my own way. Even though I was not directly providing care to patients. In those early days, while I consulted on the design process of the Atrium building and various Master Plan developments, I was easily immersed in SickKids’ culture and drive for excellence.

As I’ve often said, SickKids is not a place you want to go – but, if you must have your child cared for, SickKids is the place to go.

When my youngest son Alexander was diagnosed with leukemia in 1999, we were thrust into a rollercoaster ride from hell.

It was then, as a parent of a patient, I experienced the amazing care that SickKids provides. I witnessed how the Atrium and other building spaces supported parents and patients. More importantly, I saw areas where things could be improved.

In 2007, SickKids approached me to consider joining the organization full time, and leave the consulting world.  After a very quick discussion at home, I agreed to join SickKids as a way to give back, for what the hospital did for Alexander and our family.  

SickKids is known for innovative and quality care, compassion, understanding and support. Though the organization has continuously provided this care, the spaces where this care is delivered are not completely supportive of those needs. Enter Project Horizon, our campus redevelopment initiative. It’s made up of three phases: A new Patient Support Centre (estimated to be complete in 2022), the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower, our new hospital (estimated to be complete in 2029) and renovations to our Atrium space (estimated to be complete in 2030).

Project Horizon is not just a building project. It is an opportunity to rethink how to deliver care for children in the future, and how we can expand and integrate learning and clinical research. We also want to create and design spaces to support our staff in being the best at what they do.

Project Horizon will enhance our teaching environments for our learners through simulation and other teaching methodologies. I expect that Project Horizon will enable SickKids to provide the best care possible for the children that we serve, support innovative technologies and advances in care and be adaptable to future care models.

As a parent who has dealt with having their child in the hospital while facing a serious illness, and as a staff member who has helped shape numerous health-care development projects, I hope my experiences will assist in developing the design for our new hospital and other areas of the campus that will be renovated as part of Project Horizon.

The impact that SickKids had on our son Alexander and our family has been tremendous. Since the age of 11, Alexander has been committed in supporting SickKids in fundraising and other activities. I am happy to share that Alexander finished his three years of chemo and his follow-up care when he turned 18. He is now 22. My eldest son, Michael, focused on an education in science and is currently working in clinical research at the SickKids Research Institute.

As you can see, my family lives and breathes SickKids, and are happy to spread the word of the great things that SickKids does. And so am I.