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Competition begins to design new medical school in downtown Buffalo

downtown buffalo skyline

Published March 31, 2012

The university has kicked off a competition to select an architecture and engineering firm to design and construct the new UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

It is the largest new building project in the City of Buffalo in decades. UB, with the leadership of the State University Construction Fund, is organizing the competition in order to acquire the best talent possible.

Robert Shibley, dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning, is directing the competition. He says 19 firms from North America, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ireland were originally in the running for the contract to build a world-class design for a new UB medical school.

“The architecture of the new medical school should represent the university’s aspirations to build a world-class health sciences campus as part of a UB Downtown Campus,” Shibley says.

“Equally important, the building must provide state-of the-art educational, administrative and research spaces that foster academic excellence.”

A competition selection committee composed of eight design and engineering professionals from the State University Construction Fund and UB pared the applicants to a short list of five firms: Cannon Design, Diller Scofidio+Renfro/Gensler, Grimshaw Architects, Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, and Rafael Vinoly.

A workshop for the competitors was held Feb. 23-24 at the Greatbatch Pavilion of the Darwin Martin House, 125 Jewett Pkwy., Buffalo.

On Feb. 23, UB’s project team discussed the project vision, the city and regional context for the competition, as well as the design challenge. Submission requirements for the competition RFP were provided to competitors.

On Feb. 24, competitors took a tour of the UB South Campus and also toured downtown. They then met with the UB project team and selection committee in an open workshop format.

The firms will present their proposals March 16-22, and they will be publicly exhibited March 27-28. A final selection will be made March 29.

The competition is part of a $375 million plan to relocate the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The project is part of the next phase of the UB 2020 plan, and is partially funded by a NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant.

When completed in 2016, the new UB medical school will be in close proximity to UB’s other assets on the medical campus: a new Clinical and Translational Research Center now under construction as part of the joint UB-Kaleida Health building on Goodrich and Ellicott streets; an Educational Opportunity Center on Goodell Street, also now under construction; the new UB Downtown Gateway building (former M. Wile building) on Goodell Street; UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on Ellicott Street; and UB’s Research Institute on Addictions on Main Street.

Shibley says the space-usage program for the new UB medical school building is being written with a number of priorities in mind.

“We want it to create a ‘front door’ to the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, emphasize its student-learning environment and emphasize the interdisciplinary collaboration between the school’s academic departments,” he explains.

The new school must also feature an environment that supports high-level funded research.

Shibley says, “Designers are further challenged to place their approach to the architecture of the project in the context of the surrounding community. This building will be an entrance to downtown Buffalo from the north on Main Street and an entrance into the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus from Allen and North streets.”