Diller Scofidio + Renfro Unveils New Columbia University Medical Building

Exterior View South – Courtesy of CUMC

Columbia University has been at the forefront of medical education for more than two centuries, as it was the first medical school in the United States to award the M.D. degree in 1770. Now, the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has announced plans for a new, state-of-the-art medical and graduate education building that reflects how they believe medicine is and should be taught, learned and practiced in the 21st century.

Located on the CUMC campus in the Washington Heights community of Northern , the 14-story facility will aim to achieve LEED Gold certification and incorporate technologically advanced classrooms, collaboration spaces, and a modern simulation center. The design is led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in collaboration with Gensler as executive architect.

Continue after the break for more details!

Grandstand Entry – Courtesy of CUMC

“The new Medical and Graduate Education Building will be the social and academic anchor of the CUMC campus,” said Elizabeth Diller, principal-in-charge of the project . “Spaces for education and socializing are intertwined to encourage new forms of collaborative learning among students and faculty.”

The facility will create a community of students and facility from all four CUMC schools (P&S, Nursing, Dental Medicine and the Mailman School of Public Health) as well as the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The integration of mixed curriculum and an emphasis on team-based learning is reflected throughout the building.

Lobby – Courtesy of CUMC

The design weaves together areas for study and other activities that are important in a 21st-century university building. It features technology-enabled classrooms; a state-of-the-art medical simulation center that will replicate clinics, operating rooms and other real world medical environments; innovative learning facilities for both collaboration and quiet study; an auditorium and event areas with integrated technology; centralized student support services; student lounges and cafés; and multiple purpose outdoor spaces, including a  terrace with views of the Hudson River.

Elevated Cafe – Courtesy of CUMC

The “Study Cascade” is the principle design strategy of the building – a network of social and study spaces distributed across oversized landings along an intricate 14-story stair. The Study Cascade creates a single interconnected space the height of the building, stretching from the ground floor lobby to the top of the building, and conducive to collaborative, team-based learning and teaching. The “Study Cascade” interiors are complemented by a distributed network of south-facing outdoor “rooms” and terraces that are clad with cement panels and wood. While the “Study Cascade” provides an organizational strategy for the building’s interior, it is also an urban gesture that, with its glass façade, aims to become a visual landmark at the northern limit of Columbia University’s medical campus. The northern face of the building houses space for classrooms, clinical simulation and administration and support.

Cafe – Courtesy of CUMC

The landmark building is expect to break ground in early 2013 and pierce the Manhattan skyline upon completion mid-2017.

“The new building provides upgraded education facilities that reflect the eminence of one of the top medical schools in the world. Both the building and the newly created green space that will surround it will also revitalize our campus in ways that will benefit both our medical center and the entire community,” said Lee Goldman, M.D., dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at CUMC and executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences at Columbia University.

Auditorium Entry – Courtesy of CUMC
Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Diller Scofidio + Renfro Unveils New Columbia University Medical Building" 03 Jul 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 16 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=251141>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Eyebeam 2.0! Congrats on convincing the client to go with this kind of a scheme.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    their work is becoming like libeskind’s – a self parody of ponderous shapes

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Absurd. How does this reflect how medicine should be practised? Spend the money where it matters.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    I don’t understand this structure though. There is something tricky about the design. we don’t have a view of the whole structure from street level then it appears the building is opaque on the other side. Even libeskind might not do this. Libeskind’s buildings look firm. This building has a similitude to a stack of hamburgers.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    This construction is precisely how medicine is practised and demonstrates how the money is spent.It’s an example of what “affordable healthcare” can buy.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    the railing looks so subtle on these renderings, almost nonexistent.. what is it made of – just a thin layer of agitated air molecules?

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    They need to work on photoshopping people into their renderings. Pretty terrible job – distracting in some cases.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    The structure is apparent. Its cantilevered like Diller Scofidio’s ICA building. The design does a good job of integrating a social, outdoor oriented area on the south (solar side) and housing program on the north, raising questions of actual heating cost on the north and overheating on the south. Still, as a concept, its sensible, beautiful and intriguing all at the same time. The 64 million dollar question is still the 64 million dollar question: will it get built? But let’s face it; it has nothing to do with the way medicine will be practiced in the 21st. Century.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Diller Scofidio + Renfro are the new Studio Daniel Libeskind. (FYI – not a compliment.)

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I guess one challenge for these types (of ribbon) buildings is finding enough program to put on the ramps to justify them, and an academic building with social/hangout spaces seems a really good fit. Still, I’d really be interested to see how the plans work out.

    I bet ADA was a big challenge.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I dont believe this design should be compared to Libeskind’s work; that may be too harsh of a criticism. While the formal gestures seem wild, they are in many ways connected to the social program that it enables. In doing so, it elevates itself above Libeskind’s completely arbitrary forms at the very least.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    hi…i’m an archituceral studen and my Graduation Project is about medical building so i need the plans as example for my project….how can i get them…pleeeeeeeeez help me

Share your thoughts