By: Tanner Clapham
Just 10 months after pen hit paper for the first time, the University of Kansas Health Education Building (HEB) has officially broken ground! The 170,000-GSF project has rapidly developed a highly responsive design that has been approved by the Kansas Board of Regents, the Hall Family Foundation (who donated nearly half of the project budget), and the University of Kansas Medical Center executive committee. Construction will begin September 2015, with a scheduled completion the summer of 2017.
The design responds to a number of key stimuli that have shaped the project and heightened its potential, the first being the state’s need to provide more doctors to its underserved communities. This placed a great responsibility on the state’s only school of medicine to not only increase its class size, but to significantly enhance its facilities and curriculum to be able to attract and educate new students. Thus, the goals of HEB were established: provide a first-rate educational building that is flexible enough to accommodate a 25% class size increase over its current enrollment.
The building program is a blend of traditional and emerging learning spaces that support active, team-based learning, from large-scale learning studios to state-of-the-art clinical skills and simulation laboratories. The program features two 225-person interactive learning studios that can be combined by an operable partition, creating one column-free 11,000-SF event space.
Another key influence on the design is the site itself. The building is located on a prominent urban corner, at the center of a concentration of clinical, research and educational buildings. The HEB takes cues from the site context and posits itself as a catalyst for change and growth amongst its neighbors with a transparent urbanity that mixes the inhabitants of three schools, their faculty, even the city around it. The importance of the building as a connector is achieved through a 250-foot “building” bridge that passes directly through the center of the new Health Education Building, linking the campus into an energized, interdisciplinary loop. The bridge features 6,000 SF of student life space spanning over 39th street, and will become the crossroads of campus life.
The design engages the iconicity of the corner with a four-story glass box, showcasing the state-of-the-art simulation environments unique to this school of medicine. These specialized programmatic volumes float within the glass container, thereby putting the very heart of the building, the core of its curriculum, on display to the public.