Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Area : 110000 ft²
Year : 2016
Photographs :Iwan Baan , Nic Lehoux
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Columbia University Medical Center’s new, state-of-the-art medical and graduate education building, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, will open to faculty and students on August 15, 2016 for the start of the fall term.
Designed by the New York-based interdisciplinary design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in collaboration with Gensler as executive architect, the Vagelos Education Center is a 100,000-square-foot, 14-story glass tower that incorporates technologically advanced classrooms, collaboration spaces, and a modern simulation center to reflect how medicine is taught, learned, and practiced in the 21st century. The design seeks to reshape the look and feel of the Medical Center campus, and also create spaces that facilitate the development of skills essential for modern medical practice.
The building is named in recognition of the generosity of an initial lead gift from P. Roy Vagelos, MD, a distinguished alumnus of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and his wife, Diana Vagelos, an alumna of Barnard College and the Vice Chair of the Trustees of Barnard College. The Vagelos Education Center was funded through the generosity of many committed friends, faculty and alumni donors. Construction began in September 2013.
In addition to the new Vagelos Education Center, initiatives to revitalize the campus include increasing green space, creating a new gateway to the medical school, consolidating student services, renovating several existing buildings, and constructing new spaces, including the new home for the Columbia School of Nursing. The Vagelos Education Center will help define the northern edge of the campus and provide a bridge to the surrounding Washington Heights community.
“Our new education building will ensure that Columbia continues to train superior doctors and researchers, educated in the latest techniques, as medicine continues to evolve rapidly throughout the 21st century,” said Lee Goldman, MD, Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University. “The building also will allow us to centralize key activities in a state-of-the-art facility that reflects our commitment to providing world-class instruction and a superb learning environment for students.”
The Vagelos Education Center is a 14-story glass, concrete, and steel structure anchored by a network of social and study spaces distributed along an exposed, interconnected vertical staircase that extends the height of the building—known as the “Study Cascade”—and encompasses 100,000 square feet of advanced medical and scientific facilities. The alcove interiors of the Study Cascade, designed to be conducive to collaborative, team-based learning and teaching, open onto south-facing outdoor spaces and terraces. Other key elements of the design include:
“Space matters for structured and informal learning,” said Elizabeth Diller, founding partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro. “To support Columbia’s progressive medical education program, we designed a building that will nurture collaboration. Its defining feature is the Study Cascade–a 14-story network of vertically linked spaces in a variety of sizes, both focused and social, private and communal, indoors and out.”
“The Vagelos Education Center started with a clear vision as a place of excellence for higher learning that would also act as a much needed social center,” said Maddy Burke-Vigeland AIA, Principal at Gensler. “Because of everyone’s deep involvement, it has transformed into something that exceeds even those high expectations: a vibrant new hub for Columbia’s Medical Center campus.”
DS+R’s design takes advantage of an incredible view of the Hudson River and the Palisades. The building also integrates a range of sustainable features—including locally sourced materials, green roof technologies, and an innovative mechanical system that minimizes energy and water use—and the façade features ceramic “frit” patterns that are baked onto the exterior glass to diffuse sunlight. All new construction and renovation projects—including the Vagelos Education Center—work toward the goal of minimizing CUMC’s carbon footprint and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025.
Diana T. Vagelos ’55 and Dr. P. Roy Vagelos met as students on Columbia’s campus in the 1950s Over the past three decades, the Vageloses have supported a range of campus facilities and initiatives, including scholarships and financial aid, the Diana T. and P. Roy Vagelos Professorship of Chemistry, the Diana Center, the Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Vagelos Computational Science Center.and have made significant gifts to organizations in higher education, culture, the life sciences, and the arts, including Barnard and Columbia. Roy chairs the Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s board of advisors and co-chairs the University fundraising campaign; Diana is vice chair of the Board of Trustees for Barnard College and has expressed her belief in the importance of financial aid for students.
Diana T. Vagelos ’55 is a philanthropist and community leader who has provided service and financial support for organizations in higher education, culture, the life sciences, and the arts. She has been actively involved in organizations such as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where she co-founded the Women’s Association of NJPAC. In 2012, Diana received the Civic Spirit Award from the Women’s City Club of New York for her work in support of Barnard, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and other organizations.
Diana is a former overseer of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and a former member of the Committee on Hellenic Studies at Columbia University.
In addition to serving as vice chair of the Board of Trustees, Diana has volunteered for Barnard in various capacities, including as her class fund chair and as a member of councils and committees, including the Arts Advisory Council, the Awards Committee, and the President’s Circle Council. She received the Award for Service to Barnard in 2005.
Dr. P. Roy Vagelos is chairman of the board of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and retired chairman and chief executive officer of Merck & Co. Roy joined Merck in 1975, became president and CEO in 1985, and became chairman in 1986. During the peak of Roy’s leadership, the company was considered a world leader in the pharmaceutical industry. Roy retired from Merck in 1994. Since 1995, he has served as chairman of the board for Regeneron, which has revenue of $16 billion as of 2020. Roy co-founded the pharmaceutical company Theravance in 1996 and served as its chairman until 2010.
He is the author of more than 100 scientific papers and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (where he is trustee emeritus) in 1950 and earned an M.D. at Columbia University in 1954.
After starting his career as a doctor for the U.S. Army, Roy joined the National Institutes of Health, where he served as senior surgeon and section head of comparative biochemistry from 1956 until 1966. After the NIH, he assumed the chairmanship of the department of biological chemistry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he also founded and became director of the division of biology and biomedical sciences before leaving to join Merck.
The Vageloses have made substantial gifts to institutions such as Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania (Roy’s alma mater). They are both the children of Greek immigrants and have four adult children: Randall, Cynthia, Andrew, and Ellen.
A continuous band of circulations and communal spaces rises along the south facade of the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, located in Washington Heights district, within the Columbia University Medical Center campus. The 14-story tower houses technologically advanced teaching facilities, concentrating its more public areas – including auditoriums, classrooms, and communal spaces – in its completely glazed rear side.
Construction-wise, what most stand out in this newly opened building are its structure of reinforced concrete, from which spaces hang in a cascade; the opaque cladding formed by prefabricated panels of GRC (glassfiber-reinforced concrete); and the glass curtain wall.
Creating a contrast with the transparent main facade, the north one contains offices and specialized teaching spaces – classrooms, laboratories, and workshops – behind a skin that filters light through fritted glass that can be more or less opaque depending on the program. This combination of flexible spaces and gathering areas suggests a change of paradigm in the way medicine is taught, favoring a dynamic exchange between students, professors, and the community.
In fact, in a miraculous meeting of ‘stylistic itch’ and intuition about function, the $75m building – known as the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, for its lead donors – has already transformed student life.
When was vagelos education center built?
Completed in 2016, the building reflects a paradigm shift in medical education from passive, lecture-based instruction to team-based problem solving, while simultaneously responding to the site’s narrow footprint and tapered zoning envelope.
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