Design approved for medical school's 'front door'

Courtesy of NBBJ

The computer graphic shows the plaza leading to the new four-story Learning and Knowledge Center. The building will be adjacent to the Beckman Center. To the right would be the planned second phase of the LKC.

The School of Medicine is moving forward with plans to construct the Learning and Knowledge Center, the school's centerpiece building, following approval Feb. 12 of the building's design by the Land and Buildings Committee of the university trustees.

The school will break ground in April on the first segment of the project, which involves relocating utility lines for most of the school's existing buildings and the construction of a new underground loading dock and tunnel for school deliveries.

Construction of the main LKC building—a modern, 120,000-square-foot structure that will rise on the site now occupied by Fairchild Auditorium—is scheduled to begin in March 2008, said project coordinator Maggie Saunders. Demolition of the auditorium likely will begin in the fall of 2007.

The four-story LKC building will be the focal point of the school's educational activities, incorporating technology to provide myriad opportunities for all members of the school's community—from students to emeritus faculty—to learn and interact.

"This new facility will bring together state-of-the-art information technology, robotics and virtual reality to create an environment that provides novel approaches to education that are coupled with a commitment to humanism and compassion, and which will transform the educational experience for our medical and graduate students, as well as postgraduate residents, fellows and faculty," said Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.

The limestone and glass building, with a red roof to match the Clark Center, will stand as the new front door to the medical school along Campus Drive.

Visitors will approach either via a vehicle turnaround or along a pathway lined by palm trees and surrounded by a grassy plaza with a fountain and small seating area.

Visitors will enter the building into an open glass foyer where they'll be able to browse the bookstore, grab a latte at the café or sit in on a talk at one of the lecture halls. State-of-the-art classrooms and highly flexible small group conference and learning rooms on this level will make it a hub of student activity. A grand staircase will take visitors up to the second-floor conference center with 350 tiered seats, which can be removed to accommodate a sit-down meal for 280.

The third floor will house the dean's suite of offices as well as classrooms, while the fourth floor, with a rooftop patio and fitness center, will be designed as a social environment and study space for students.

One of the high-tech features of the building is the Center for Immersive and Simulation-based Learning, believed to be one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the country. The center will include a simulated hospital with full-body mannequins that blink, breathe and talk. Trainees will be able to practice in an operating room, emergency room and intensive care unit without ever touching a real patient.

The simulation center, which will be located on the ground floor, also will include a space where trainees can do a virtual laparoscopy or learn to do a breast exam on simulated body parts.

The school hopes to have the Learning and Knowledge Center ready for temporary use by late 2009, the 50th anniversary of the school's move from San Francisco to Palo Alto. Full completion is expected by March 2010.

The building constitutes the first phase of the LKC project, which will also include an adjacent, 85,000-square-foot structure that will house a largely digital library and the Office of Student Affairs. Construction of the second building, which has yet to be approved, is not likely to begin until 2012 or 2013, Saunders said.

The construction project will require members of the medical school community to adjust their parking habits. As work begins in April, most of the 750 general-use parking spaces in the lot south of Fairchild and the Beckman Center will no longer be available. Faculty, staff and students can choose to park in one of several lots, including the Roth Way garage and the Jordan quad lot across Campus Drive, the Stock Farm Road lot or the underground garage in front of Stanford Hospital.

There will be limited parking—about 60 metered, service and handicapped spaces—on the site of the new Learning and Knowledge Center once it's completed.

The project will be the anchor and the focal point of a new quadrangle campus for the School of Medicine, whose long-range master plan also includes a series of buildings to house the Stanford Institutes of Medicine.

The LKC project was designed by the San Francisco office of the international architectural firm NBBJ, which has also sketched out a master plan to guide future construction.

The cost of the initial LKC building is estimated at $90.2 million. The project will be financed through a combination of private contributions, debt and university resources.

A town hall meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 26 in Fairchild Auditorium to discuss the first segment of the LKC construction project, including parking issues.