October 6, 2016 - Diller Scofidio + Renfro - The Vagelos Education Center at Columbia University
e-flux Architecture
October 6, 2016
October 6, 2016

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Long Section, The Vagelos Education Center at Columbia University. Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

The Vagelos Education Center at Columbia University


The Vagelos Education Center at Columbia University


The Vagelos Education Center, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler (as Executive Architect), is a new medical and graduate education building at Columbia University’s Medical Center. The building’s design—which weaves together state-of-the-art medical simulation clinics and labs, tech-enabled classrooms, communal areas for study and socializing, and event spaces—reflects how medicine is taught, learned, and practiced in the 21st century.

The design of the 14-story tower, which encompasses 100,000 square feet of medical and scientific facilities, is defined by the “Study Cascade,” a network of social and study spaces distributed along an exposed, interconnected vertical staircase that extends the height of the building. The vertically-linked spaces include alcoves in a variety of sizes and configurations—both focused and social, private and communal. Designed to be conducive to collaborative team-based learning and teaching, the alcoves open onto south-facing outdoor terraces, and connect at every floor to the north side of the tower, where academic “neighborhoods”—groups of classrooms with operable partitions, drop-down monitors, large-scale touch screens, suspended ceilings, and distributed power on the floor—can be configured according to need.

Together with the tower’s amenities and venues—an auditorium and event areas, centralized student support services, lounges and cafés, multi-purpose outdoor spaces, and a landscaped terrace with views of the Hudson River—the Study Cascade and its connected interior spaces create a light-filled, healthful environment, both physically and socially, for students, staff, and faculty who spend long hours in the building. The building integrates a range of sustainable features—locally sourced materials, green roof technologies, and an innovative mechanical system that minimizes energy and water use—including ceramic “frit” patterns that are baked onto exterior glass to diffuse sunlight. While the Study Cascade provides the prime organizational strategy for the interior, it also contributes an urban gesture: the glazed southern façade serves as a beacon at the northern limit of the medical campus.

Design Architect
Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Executive Architect

Columbia University Medical Center

Structural Engineer
Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA)

MEP Engineer
Jaros Baum & Bolles (JB&B)

Curtain Wall Consultant
Buro Happold Consulting Engineers P.C.

Landscape Architect
SCAPE Landscape Architecture, PLLC

Lighting Consultants
Tillotson Design Associates

Building Code Consultants
Milrose Consultants, Inc.

Elevator Consultants
Jenkins & Huntington, Inc. (JHI)

Sustainability Consultant
Viridian Energy & Environmental

Geotechnical Engineers
Weidlinger Associates, Inc.

Acoustics / Audio / Visual Consultants
Cerami & Associates, Inc.

Graphic Designers

Total Area
100,000 square feet

Diller Scofidio + Renfro
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