Architecture firm selected to design medical school's new education center

The university and School of Medicine have selected an architecture firm to design the new Learning and Knowledge Center that is to be the hub for all of the school's educational activities.

The firm, NBBJ, which has developed projects around the world, emerged as the top contender in a national competition to lead the design effort for the new, 120,000-square-foot building, to be located on the site of the current Fairchild Auditorium, Dean Philip Pizzo, MD, announced. The project also includes renovations of 75,000 square feet in the Lane and Alway buildings, as well as connective elements to integrate the LKC into the rest of the medical center campus.

The architects will work with school officials in the coming months to come up with a plan for a unique, state-of-the-art facility that will serve as the gateway to the school and provide it with a strong physical identity. The building will be the cornerstone of a broad effort to upgrade the medical school's facilities, which date from 1959, when the school moved its campus from San Francisco to Palo Alto.

"This is a major step forward in our effort to revitalize our campus and transform the way we train physicians and scientists in the 21st century," Pizzo said.

The process of selecting a lead architect began in October 2005 after the university's Board of Trustees endorsed the concept and site. Of the 16 design firms invited to submit qualifications, four were selected to submit a formal proposal, including a preliminary conceptual design and technical proposal. These finalists made presentations in late January to a 14-member review committee that included Pizzo, University President John Hennessy and several university trustees.

NBBJ, which has offices in nine cities in the United States and abroad, was selected on the basis of its experience and creativity and ability to work effectively with the school. The firm's San Francisco office has designed a number of leading research facilities, including the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation. Some of its recent projects in the Bay Area include Kaiser Permanente's new flagship hospital in downtown Oakland, the J. David Gladstone Institute's biomedical research building in Mission Bay and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation's center in San Carlos.

The NBBJ team will work with medical school officials on a design that will not only serve as a unifying element for all of the school's educational activities but also link it to the main campus. The "front door" of the project, designed to provide a clear identity for the school, will face Campus Drive and Via Ortega, leading to the university's Science and Engineering Quad.

The four-story building will include innovative teaching facilities—from lecture halls to small-group discussion areas—and a biomedical library with 90 percent of its content available in digital format. The third floor will house a new Center for Immersive and Simulation-based Learning, where students, residents and allied health professionals will be able to test their clinical skills using the latest technology to evoke real-world situations.

The building also will house a conference center that can accommodate 350 people in an auditorium that can be divided into smaller, breakout areas.

Along with the new building, the project would involve major remodeling of the Lane and Alway buildings, as well as the development of an underground tunnel system to link the main building to other medical center facilities.

The school hopes to have a design ready for the trustees' review by April 2007. If plans proceed as hoped, the school would break ground on the building in 2007.

A rough estimated cost of the total project is $128 million, including about $89 million for the LKC building. The project will be financed through a mix of private contributions, debt and university resources.