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Medical school design, layout encourage collaboration

The signature feature of the new medical school is a light-filled, six-story glass atrium that includes connecting bridges to adjacent buildings. The atrium, naturally illuminated by skylights and two glass walls, will serve as the building’s main interior “avenue.” Image: HOK


Published April 10, 2013

The primary goal of the design for UB’s new downtown School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is to create new opportunities for interactions between UB medical students and faculty members in clinical and basic science departments, according to Kenneth Drucker, design principal for the project and design director for HOK’s New York office.

“To bring together academia and research, the design sandwiches the three research floors between the more public parts of the medical education program on the lower floors and the more specialized, pedagogical components, such as the human anatomy suite, on the upper floors,” he says. A common atrium and second-floor “piano nobile,” or principal level, fosters collaboration between educators, researchers and the greater Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus community.

Faculty, researchers and students will have clinical responsibilities on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which will be physically connected to the medical school's “piano nobile” level by an enclosed bridge across High Street.

By providing opportunities for learning, researching and credentialing for medical practitioners from across the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the building creates a true academic medical campus.

And while the new building is clearly modern, it acknowledges the city’s architectural history, notes Robert G. Shibley, dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning and head of the committee that selected HOK to design the UB medical school. “Our goal was to find expression for a new medical school that is comfortable with some of the historical circumstances that surround it and that is typical of sites across Buffalo where new and old work well together.”

The medical school design does this through the use of an open interior space, similar to other large urban buildings in Buffalo, such as the Ellicott Square Building or the Market Arcade building. “Just like these buildings, the new medical school will appear to take up a whole city block, but it actually has an open interior that invites social engagement and creates an opportunity for natural light within the interior, increasing the utility of space inside the core of the building,” Shibley says.

The new medical school will be integrated with the NFTA's Allen Street Metro station. Image: HOK

In addition to fostering interactions within the medical school and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the new building will further the development of an active, vibrant community with its integration of the NFTA's Allen Street transit hub.

“This is the transit-oriented development that the state-of-the-art city building calls for,” says Shibley. “Anytime you can place a high-density workforce at the intersection of a high-capacity transit system, can live anywhere along the corridor, can create a mixed use family of activities at the street level, and can find a way to go to work and go home without your car, you have successful transit-oriented development.”

Shibley says the new medical school will further strengthen Buffalo’s NFTA-Metro system. “Buffalo already has, in terms of performance and ridership density, a well-functioning, though short, Metro system,” he says. “This new development will presumably increase efficiency while increasing ridership without increasing demand for capacity in the overall system. We had room for more riders and the new medical school will give us more.”

The Metro station’s location in UB’s new medical school building provides mass transit options not only to students, faculty and employees, but also to patients, families and other visitors to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  

It also provides a front door to the medical campus and to Buffalo’s growing downtown. “The design of the new medical school vertically marks the junction,” says Shibley, “marking one’s arrival at the same time in Allentown, on the medical campus and downtown.”

HOK’s Drucker concluded: “The entire community has been incredibly supportive during the design process. The high level of cooperation we have experienced with all the constituents—including Allentown and Fruit Belt neighborhood groups, agencies such as the NFTA and users of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus—is unprecedented in my professional experience.”