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Architectural Firm Selected to Design New Medical School

Published May 17, 2012

Following an international competition, HOK—an elite architectural firm with an extensive portfolio of health sciences facilities and academic buildings—has been selected to help produce the final design for UB’s new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in downtown Buffalo.

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Public Feedback Welcomed on Design Concepts

The May 16 announcement launches the next phase of the design process, which includes public exhibition of design ideas submitted by all four finalist teams and conversations with university and community stakeholders to inform and guide creation of the school’s final design.

Public input will be sought on all four design concepts submitted by the finalists.

The designs will be on display at the Greatbatch Pavilion, 125 Jewett Parkway, through May 24. They will then move to the Buffalo and Erie County Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, through June 8.

“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 world-class research, education and patient care. It will be a prominent new feature in the skyline of a city known worldwide for its architectural treasures.”

Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity for School, Region

The medical school’s groundbreaking is slated for September 2013; construction is expected to be completed in 2016.

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, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“From the start, 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.”

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 Western New York.

The new medical school will sit at the corner of High and Main Streets, in the center of the region’s emerging biosciences corridor.

It will be a short walk from Buffalo General Medical Center, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Hauptman Woodward Research Institute and the recently completed UB-Kaleida Health building, which houses UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center and Kaleida Health’s 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.

Design Dialogue to include UB, WNY Stakeholders

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.

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.

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

“Now we will build upon these experiments through a dialogue with the medical school, the community and the stellar HOK team, a process that will be guided by perspectives offered by some of the world’s best architectural minds.”

Milestone in UB’s Master Plan for Downtown Campus

The new medical school facility 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, offering a potentially 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.

UB also 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. This 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 neighborhood 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. These included positioning the medical school’s “front door” on the east side of the building, using Washington Street as a driveable or pedestrian-only access point, and extending Allen Street eastward deep into the campus, creating grand promenades from that street to Ellicott Street.

Impressive Breadth of Health Sciences Experience

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.

The firm brings an impressive and deep portfolio in health sciences complexes.

It designed the acclaimed King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. Recently it won the international competition to design the Fondazione Ri.MED Biomedical Research and Biotechnology Center in Palermo, Italy.

It also served as the lead designer for the Francis Crick Institute’s cardiovascular and cancer research center, now under construction in central London. When completed, it will be Europe’s largest center for biomedical research and innovation.

HOK’s medical center designs include those for Florida State University, the University of Alberta, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Central Florida.

One of HOK’s design principals for the UB project, William Odell, oversaw many of these projects. He has earned international praise for his architectural and laboratory designs for some of the world’s largest and most complex health sciences and medical research facilities.

HOK’s Green Credentials Impacted Decision

Because of UB’s sustainability and climate-impact reduction goals, HOK’s green design credentials influenced its selection.

HOK has been repeatedly ranked the “greenest architecture firm in the world” by Engineering News-Record.

Two of HOK’s principals for the UB project—Odell and Kenneth 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. 

UB Construction Stimulates Local Economy

The medical school’s construction continues the physical transformation of UB’s three campuses.

Beginning with the opening of William R. Greiner Residence Hall last August and continuing through this September, UB will have opened four major new buildings across its three campuses.

This translates to more than $321 million in construction, 93 percent of which was awarded to local contractors, with a similar ratio for construction spending expected for the medical school.

HOK will be subcontracting with four Buffalo-based firms, among them the award-winning Foit-Albert Associates, a woman-owned business enterprise.