Reaching Others University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content
Official UB news and information for the media

UB Selects an Architecture Team to Lead Design of New Medical School Downtown

By Rachel M. Teaman

Release Date: May 17, 2012

Related Multimedia

Design concepts produced by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and Cannon Design, and three other elite architectural teams, will be used to produce the final design for the new UB school of medicine.

Design concepts produced by Rafael Vinoly Architects with Foit-Albert Associates and three other elite architectural teams will be used to produce the final design for the new UB school of medicine.

Design concepts produced by Grimshaw and Davis Brody Bond, and three other elite architectural teams, will be used to produce the final design for the new UB school of medicine.

Design concepts produced by HOK and three other elite architectural teams will be used to produce the final design for the new UB school of medicine in downtown Buffalo.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After an international competition that focused the expertise of four elite architectural teams on design possibilities for a new University at Buffalo school of medicine in downtown Buffalo, UB announced today the selection of the winning team.

HOK, one of the world's leading architectural firms, with a global portfolio of health sciences facilities and academic buildings and an international reputation for sustainable design, has been selected to help produce the final design for the new UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

"This is a very exciting outcome for our university and our community as we move forward with this vital next phase in the UB 2020 vision of excellence," said UB President Satish K. Tripathi. "The new downtown home for UB's medical school needs to be extraordinary on many levels.

"This building will be a linchpin in our downtown campus, an anchor in the Buffalo health sciences community and a hub for excellence in medical research, education and patient care. And it will be a prominent new feature in the skyline of a city known worldwide for its architectural treasures. Responding to all these needs is a tall order, but HOK has amply demonstrated that it has all the right tools to rise to the challenge: innovative vision, expertise in green design and in the planning of 21st century health science facilities and a clear understanding of the unique potential of our medical school and the communities it serves."

Robert G. Shibley, dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning and head of the selection committee, said four teams of the world's top architects were selected from among 19 teams in five countries that originally vied for the opportunity to design this building.

"The teams selected each produced a design experiment that taught us something about the architectural possibilities for the building, from how it might meet the ground to the kinds of learning environments and public spaces it could create," he said.

"Now we will build upon these experiments through a dialogue with the medical school, the community and the stellar HOK team, guided by perspectives from some of the world's best architectural minds," Shibley said.

The announcement kicks off the next phase of the medical school design process. This phase will include the public exhibition of design ideas submitted by all four competing teams and conversations with university and community stakeholders to inform and guide creation of the final design for the school.

The four finalists represent an international shortlist of some of today's most notable architects. In addition to HOK, they are Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and Cannon Design, Rafael Vinoly Architects with Foit-Albert Associates, and Grimshaw and Davis Brody Bond.

An eight-person selection committee composed of design and engineering professionals from the State University Construction Fund and UB evaluated the teams based on a diverse set of criteria, including depth of experience with similar facility types, project team qualifications, project approach, design ideas, minority- and women-owned business enterprise participation and references from other work.

The proposed $375 million medical school, funded in part by NYSUNY 2020 legislation, is a key component of the UB 2020 plan for academic excellence, which is intended to benefit students, faculty, staff and the Western New York community.

The new medical school will sit at the corner of High and Main Streets, in the center of the region's emerging bio-sciences corridor and a short walk from Buffalo General Medical Center, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute and the recently completed UB-Kaleida Health building, which houses UB's Clinical and Translational Research Center and the Gates Vascular Institute. The planned relocation of Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo could place that hospital across the street from the medical school building.

"Building a new medical school is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our university and region, and a critical step in evolving the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus into an academic health center on par with those of Pittsburgh and Cleveland," said Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"From the start," he said, "we have been committed to creating a building that supports medical education for the 21st century and enriches the people who will live, learn and work within and around it. We look forward to working closely with HOK and community members to create a final design for our world-class building for UB's medical school."

Groundbreaking for the medical school is slated for fall 2013; construction is anticipated to be completed in 2016. The medical school's construction continues the physical transformation of UB's three campuses. Beginning with the opening of the award-winning William R. Greiner Residence Hall designed by Cannon Design last August and continuing through this September, UB will have opened four major new buildings across its three campuses. Included among the list of projects is the Clinical and Translational Research Center, built jointly with Kaleida Health's Gates Vascular Institute, also designed by Cannon.

This translates to more than $321 million in construction -- 93 percent of this construction (more $300 million) was awarded to local contractors. A similar ratio for construction spending is expected for the medical school project. Extending the project's local impacts are HOK's subcontracts with four Buffalo-based firms, among them the award-winning Foit-Albert Associates, a woman-owned business enterprise.

Kenneth Drucker, design principal for the project and design director for HOK's New York office, said his team approached the medical school project "after a thorough analysis of the scale and texture of the city and the history, quality and craft of Buffalo architecture.

"UB has world-class aspirations for the architecture, design and planning of the medical school and site," he said. "The project presents an exciting opportunity to transform the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and make a bold statement for architecture and urban design in Buffalo. We are pleased to have been selected for such a meaningful project to prepare students for medical and research careers in an inspiring research-focused academic medical center."

The medical school will be the largest new building to be built in Buffalo in decades, and the project presents a complex and important set of urban design challenges because of its location. The building will serve as a gateway to downtown and the front door of the university and Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with the potential to offer a seamless connection to the surrounding Allentown and Fruit Belt neighborhoods.

The site also includes a new Allen-Medical Campus Metro Station. UB is finalizing an agreement with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to permit the station to be incorporated into or built adjacent to the medical school building. In addition, several historic buildings to the east must be thoughtfully incorporated into the site plan. Finally, the university is looking for a design that includes green space and pedestrian ways, such as a linear park along Ellicott Street and a pedestrian passage through the building from Allen Street, which will create a strong sense of place for campus and community and physical connections between them.

"This is a milestone in UB's master plan for its downtown campus, which is to create a lively, urban, mixed-use district, well-connected to the Allentown and Fruit Belt neighborhoods and downtown communities," said Shibley, adding that the medical school move will bring 1,200 students, faculty and staff downtown.

The four teams proposed a range of design responses to these challenges, including positioning the medical school's "front door" on different corners of the site, which is bounded by Main Street on the west, High Street on the north, Washington Street on the east and extends past Allen Street on the south. Some design schemes used Washington Street as a drive-able access point, while others used it as pedestrian-only. All of them extend Allen Street eastward deep into the campus, creating grand promenades from Allen Street to Ellicott Street.

HOK will begin to address the full range of design challenges over the next several weeks through visioning and space programming discussions with medical school leadership, faculty, staff and students. Public input will also be sought on all four design concepts submitted by the finalists, which will be on display for the public at the Greatbatch Pavilion, 125 Jewett Pkwy., Buffalo, through May 24, and then at the Buffalo and Erie County Central Library, 1 Lafayette Sq., Buffalo, through June 8. Community members are invited to submit their comments by sending an email to smbs-design@buffalo.edu. Updated information on the design process will be available at http://www.buffalo.edu/ub2020/building_ub.

The design competition process used to select HOK was intensive. In February, the four competing teams toured facilities and participated in a workshop with university officials to discuss project goals. They then had a month to prepare initial illustrations of their work as part of their response to a formal request for proposals. The design experiments were presented to campus and community leaders in late March to further inform the selection process.

Competing teams were challenged to propose design solutions that foster collaboration and interdisciplinary care and create connections that allow students, faculty, biomedical researchers and clinicians to move easily from classroom to bedside to lab. For example, design ideas included sky-bridge connections from the medical school to a Phase 2 building across Washington Street as well as to a proposed medical office building and to the proposed Women and Children's Hospital on High Street.

"This process was never intended to produce a winning design, but to reveal how the architects were thinking about and approaching the project," said Shibley, "and HOK rose to the top of an impressive field, bringing an all-star team to the project, a thoughtful and graceful approach, and recent experience designing some of the highest profile and most innovative health sciences facilities in the world."

HOK brings an impressive and deep portfolio in health sciences complexes. The firm designed the acclaimed King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and recently won the international competition to design the Fondazione Ri.MED Biomedical Research and Biotechnology Center in Palermo, Sicily. HOK also served as the lead designer for the University of Chicago's William Eckhardt Research Center and the Francis Crick Institute's cardiovascular and cancer research center in central London, which will be the largest center for biomedical research and innovation in Europe.

HOK's experience includes designing medical centers for Ohio State University in Columbus, Florida State University, the University of Alberta, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Central Florida and The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as well as the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.

HOK's laboratory design principal for the UB project, Bill Odell, oversaw many of these projects, and has earned international praise for his architectural and laboratory designs for some of the largest and most complex health sciences and medical research facilities in the world. Several other members of the HOK team also played lead roles on these recent projects as design principals, laboratory designers and medical education planners.

Because of UB's sustainability and climate-impact reduction goals, HOK's green design credentials influenced its selection: UB has set a goal of LEED Gold for the new medical school building. HOK, Shibley noted, has been repeatedly ranked the "top green design firm" by Engineering News-Record, while KAUST was certified in 2009 as the world's largest LEED Platinum project. Two of HOK's principals for the UB project -- Odell and Drucker -- are widely recognized for their leadership in this area, and Odell is one of the founding members of the U.S. Green Building Council.