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University of Arizona Medical Education Building Breaks New Ground

2/14/2011 3:00:25 PM

Phoenix, February 14, 2011: The physical manifestation of a new, interdisciplinary approach to health sciences education and research is rising from the flat pans of downtown Phoenix in the form of an architecturally expressive, world-class, sustainable educational facility. Currently under construction, the project recently won a 2010 NEXT LA Citation Award given to “on-the-boards” projects by the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Los Angeles-based CO Architects, specialists in architecture for education and healthcare, is the design and executive architect, working on the project with the Phoenix office of Ayers Saint Gross, associate and master plan architect. A joint venture between DPR Construction and Sundt Construction, Inc. (DPR • Sundt), is overseeing the preconstruction phase and is construction manager at risk for the project, which is under the aegis of the Arizona Board of Regents.

The 268,000-square-foot Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB), part of the 28-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus, will be used by the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, the UA College of Pharmacy, and the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, as well as by Northern Arizona University’s College of Health and Human Services programs.

“This one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary facility will provide greater access to medical education in Arizona and will have a tremendous economic impact on the state by creating new jobs and pumping revenue into the economy,” said Ernest Calderón, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents. The project broke ground in May 2010 and is expected to be completed by August 2012.

“The collaboration stretches taxpayer dollars and merges elements of health programs formerly taught separately,” said Paul Zajfen, FAIA, RIBA, design principal of CO Architects. The building’s layout facilitates the current trend in medical education to teach interdisciplinary curricula to small groups of students. The architecture is a dramatic response to its function and to the local climate—inspired by desert earth forms and built from regional materials.

The programmatically advanced, $129-million HSEB is also sustainable, architecturally dynamic, and contextually appropriate. Sited on a campus commons, HSEB’s form and east-west orientation cut heat gain in the challenging climate, while still utilizing abundant natural lighting, pursuant to a prospective LEED- NC Silver certification. South-facing façades combine overhangs with perforated screens that function as sunshades; vertical fins control sun penetration on the north. “This building signifies the next phase in the development of the campus and its expanding presence in the downtown core,” noted Jack Black, AIA, LEED AP, associate principal at Ayers Saint Gross’ Phoenix office.

Dual wings of the building are inflected to self-shade the walls and to create east-west “canyons.” Space between the two wings is tall and intentionally narrow, resulting in an interior courtyard that will be clad in light-colored, burnished concrete blocks that provide cool thermal mass and reflectivity. At the top of the canyon is a PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) scrim roof that helps regulates air and light.

The canyon metaphor also applies to the materiality of the building. To connect the built environment to the surrounding landscape and bring nature into the heart of downtown Phoenix, the color and patina of the building skin draw from the peaks and mountains prevalent in Arizona. Photographs of the mountains have been transformed into an abstract pattern embossed onto the copper cladding on both the skin and louvers.

These design features intrigued the AIA/LA NEXT LA Awards jury, which hailed the project for its “great sensitivity to the Arizona landscape, with references to the canyons, both in surface treatment and the interior spatial quality.”

Said DPR Construction project director Peter Berg, LEED AP, DBIA, “As a project team member, the DPR • Sundt Joint Venture is extremely proud to be constructing the landmark HSEB for the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus and to be part of an institution that will serve the State of Arizona for many generations to come.”

Project Team:

Owner: City of Phoenix Client: Arizona Board of Regents Users: University of Arizona/Northern Arizona University Design and Executive Architect: CO Architects Associate Architect and Master Planner: Ayers Saint Gross Preconstruction/Construction Manager at Risk Contractor: DPR • Sundt, a Joint Venture of DPR Construction and Sundt Construction, Inc. Landscape Architect: JJR Lighting Designer: Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Lighting Structural Engineer: John A. Martin & Associates MEP Engineer: AEI Engineers Civil Engineer: Dibble Engineering Climate Engineer: Transsolar Energietechnik Geotechnical Engineer: Professional Service Industries Fire Protection/Code Consultant: Rolf Jensen & Associates Loading/Vertical Transportation Consultant: Lerch Bates Audiovisual Technology: The Sextant Group Cost Estimator: Davis Langdon


CO Architects: Julie D. Taylor, Taylor & Company, 310.247.1099,

Ayers Saint Gross: Nakia Neves, Ayers Saint Gross, 480.921.1515,

DPR Construction: Pamela Maydanis, DPR, 602.808.0500,

Sundt Construction: Charlie Boyd, Sundt, 520.750.4600,

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