Architecture is going up, with everything from courts, communities and shopping centres to waste management units and farms. In dense cities, we look to the skies to conserve space, but surely that isn’t the only reason to explain this new obsession with vertical design.
It certainly is not the catalyst behind the latest plans for Columbia University’s Medical Center (CUMC) high-rise building. The medical and graduate education building will be located on the university’s Washington Heights campus in New York and will tower over its surroundings at 14 storeys high.
While the glass tower forms a striking figure, the reason for its form – much like the focus of the teachings that will take place within the building – is less about the outside and more about what’s going on inside.
The building has been designed to cater to a very important interior function, and one that is growing immensely in the world of education – collaborative learning. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with executive architecture firm Gensler, the interior of the building has been designed as a ‘social and academic anchor for the CUMC campus,’ says architect Elizabeth Diller.
“Spaces for education and socialising are intertwined to encourage new forms of collaborative learning among students and faculty,” she says.
‘Smart’ classrooms, collaborative spaces, a fully technologically-integrated auditorium and a simulation centre make up the bulk of the building. All of the spaces have been designed to centralise social space in order to encourage interaction. This is shown in the built feature of the ‘study cascade’, a system of alcoves that encourage interaction and collaboration.
The building’s transparent glass south facing façade allows for an abundance of natural light in addition to creating strong indoor/outdoor visual cues.
The building stands as a built representation of modern medicine, a practice that is not austere and alienating, but a field that is at its best when practitioners work together, in spaces that are specifically designed for state of the art learning.
The building will also boast green features and, though these features have yet to be clarified, the building will be aiming for LEED Gold standard upon its completion.