Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) unveiled its design for the New York City Public Health Laboratory, a ten storey building meant to strengthen the metropole's capability to respond to a variety of public health issues and future challenges. The laboratory is organized within a cubic glass volume stepping outward, which rises from a masonry-clad podium containing community-related functions. In order to give the new facility an active role within the Harlem neighbourhood, the design incorporates a training lab and an auditorium available to the community.
The New York City Public Health Laboratory was established in 1892 during New York's diphtheria outbreak and was the first municipal bacteriological laboratory in the world. Last year, the facility was the first to perform Covid testing in New York. Located adjacent to the Harlem Hospital, the project will replace the existing laboratory with a new building featuring flexible spaces and advanced facilities for various focus areas, from microbiology and virology to immunology and biosafety.
The design of the new laboratory is the culmination and celebration of mission, culture, and place. It moves beyond familiar institutional aesthetics to convey the duality between the building's precise, rigorous laboratory environments and its dynamic Harlem context.- Scott Habjan, senior designer for SOM's New York Health and Science practice
The program is organized within two volumes, each showcasing its distinct materiality. The three-storey podium contains support functions and the elements of the program that cater to the community. Above the podium are the administrative floor and a green roof. The laboratories' volume features a structural diagrid, paired with a glass and metal cladding. On the southern edge, each level advances towards the limit of the plot, providing passive shading to the storeys below.