Rafael Viñoly Architects Completes UCSF Stem Cell Building
by Nicholas Tamarin | Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | 1 Comment
Rafael Viñoly Architects is clearly the top of their class now that they’ve broken ground on one high-profile academic project, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, right on the heels of their completion of another, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine building at the University of California, San Francisco.
Already established as one of the most prolific—and diverse—practices working today, with projects ranging from a NYPD stationhouse to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the back-to-back buildings cement their status as the go-to firm for institutional and civic commissions.
The regenerative medicine building is the second building RVA has completed for UCSF, following the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, and boasts 125 labs for scientists exploring the earliest stages of animal and human development.
Located on a steep urban hillside, the Dolby building posed a difficult design challenge: executing a horizontal structure on an uneven site while grabbing LEED Gold in the process. RVA responded with a serpentine building and a main floor that functions as one continuous laboratory divided into four split levels, each stepping down a half-story as the building descends the forested hillside. Each level is topped by an office cluster and a grass roof with wildflowers and plants. Exterior ramps and stairs—it’s California—provide continuous circulation between all levels, and the facility connects to three nearby research buildings and UCSF Medical Center via a pedestrian bridge. The building structure is supported by steel space trusses springing from concrete piers, minimizing site excavation and incorporating seismic base isolation to absorb earthquake forces.
Inside the building, the transitions between the split levels are designed to promote chance interaction between scientists, with break rooms and stairs located at these interfaces. Interior glazing maximizes visual connectivity between the lower labs that occupy a horizontal open-floor plan and feature reconfigurable, custom-designed casework systems, and the upper levels. South-facing glazing provides the open laboratories and offices with natural light and views of the nearby woods of San Francisco’s Mount Sutro as do the structure’s green roof terraces.
A continent away, RVA is also thinking green thoughts with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, likewise targeting LEED certification for its design. Located next to I.M. Pei’s existing John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the new 40,000-square-foot facility will feature classrooms, educational exhibits, a recreation of Senator Kennedy’s office, and a mock Senate chamber. Designed to work in harmony with Pei’s building, RVA’s design includes an innovative composite cladding, which wraps the exterior of the chamber representation. The cladding is visually separated from the one-story volume by a ribbon skylight, which runs above the ground-floor exhibition space.
The completed development will boast a large expanse of outdoor public space, guiding visitors to the entrance of the building. This public green space is bordered by two triangular volumes, which define the entry to the building and geometrically connect the Institute to the JFK Library. The exterior open space is a link between the Institute, the JFK Library and the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, while also acting as a connection to the waterfront and Boston Harbor Walk. The entrance approach is designed to incorporate components from each of the 50 states and enhance connections between the building and the entire nation.
Pentagram Design is also in on the project, developing the initial concept for the exhibits and visitor experience, intended to immerse visitors in how the Senate operates, how laws are created, and what it is like to be a senator. The institute’s Senate chamber will feature 100 interactive desks, created in collaboration with game designer Eric Zimmerman, that will allows visitors to take part in historical events, with the visitors determining the outcome.
Images courtesy of Rafael Viñoly Architects.
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