Plans for Medical & Graduate Education Building Revealed

Building design led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

New York, NY (June 27, 2012) – Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) announced plans for a new, state-of-the-art medical and graduate education building on the CUMC campus in the Washington Heights community of Northern Manhattan. The new building, with a design led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in collaboration with Gensler as executive architect, is a 14-story glass tower that incorporates technologically advanced classrooms, collaboration spaces, and a modern simulation center, all reflecting how medicine is and will be taught, learned, and practiced in the 21st century.

Construction of this new building is supported by a lead gift of $50 million from P. Roy Vagelos, M.D., a distinguished alumnus of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S), and his wife, Diana Vagelos. This gift was announced in September 2010.

The building will become an important landmark to the skyline of Northern Manhattan – as it will be visible from the nearby George Washington Bridge and Riverside Park. Construction is expected to begin in early 2013 and will take approximately 42 months.

"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.

Located on existing Columbia property on Haven Avenue between West 171st and West 172nd Streets, the Medical and Graduate Education Building will be used by students from all four CUMC schools (P&S, Nursing, Dental Medicine and the Mailman School of Public Health), and the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Its high-tech medical simulation center, which will allow hands-on learning in realistic settings, will transform the way CUMC trains health professionals in medicine, dentistry, and nursing, as well as how practicing physicians maintain their clinical skills and learn new techniques.

“The new building will have the best possible design that is attractive, comfortable, and appropriate for the intense kind of education that our students receive,” said Dr. Vagelos, a 1954 graduate of P&S, and former chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. Inc. He is chairman of the CUMC’s Board of Visitors and Defining the Future Campaign “The formal learning space will have state-of-the-art electronics that facilitate the delivery of information to students. In addition, there will be space where the students can informally interact and work as teams – reflecting our new curriculum which emphasizes team-based learning. And there will also be space to relax and have coffee. It will incorporate every aspect of medical and graduate education – updated in a modern, environmentally responsible way.”

A new 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, will be incorporated into the new building. The design centralizes all social and public spaces in a vertical stack at the south face of the building. This continuous space features a multi-story glass façade that maximizes light and offers exceptional views to the south. The interiors of the study cascade – a system of special alcoves reserved for social interaction – are complemented by outdoor gathering spaces and terraces that are clad in cement panels, wood, and other materials. In addition to serving as the principal design element for the building, the transparent façade of the study cascade is designed to serve as 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 administrative space.

“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 Diller Scofidio + Renfro. “Spaces for education and socializing are intertwined to encourage new forms of collaborative learning among students and faculty.”

“The architecture of the (campus) revitalization program is really powerful and brings medical students, dental students, graduate students all together and makes us feel more like we are part of the community,” said Kally Pan, a doctoral candidate in P&S and a member of a student committee that participated in the design process.

The Medical and Graduate Education Building incorporates green design and building techniques that will create a welcoming environment and contribute to the long-term sustainability of the entire neighborhood. The University is planning the building to meet LEED-Gold standards for sustainability. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a national design standard for green buildings and sustainability which is administered by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

For more than two centuries, Columbia University has been a premier destination for medical education, training generations of outstanding physicians and scientists. It was the first medical school in the United States to award the M.D. degree in 1770. The new building is intended to keep Columbia at the forefront of innovations in medical and graduate science education.

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest in the United States.

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Media Contact: Doug Levy,,, 212-305-3900