Universities across the world are tasked with the role of allowing young minds to engage in rigorous study in an atmosphere that inspires them. Thus, University campuses offer an incredible opportunity for Architects to design an experience for students and faculty alike. Columbia University has long been known as one of the top schools worldwide, with outstanding undergraduate and graduate education. Recently, Columbia’s Medical Center invested in a new building for medical and graduate education, and it is one of my favorite buildings to date.
Designed by Diller Scofidio+Renfro, the buildings fascinating south facade would intrigue anyone, let alone Architects. Its modern and creative appearance invites students to enjoy their study. It features large formal “slabs” that correspond to programmatic elements of the design. One of the Architect’s biggest goals for the project was to encapsulate in the design the nature of medical research, study, and practice in today’s technologically driven world. The building is divided into two programmatic zones: classrooms and administrative offices on the north side, and what DS+R call the “Study Cascade” on the south. Elements of the Study Cascade puncture through the facade, thus creating pockets of exterior spaces and little niches of collaborative learning spaces as can be seen in the diagrams below.
The idea of the “Study Cascade” is derived from the need for collaborative study areas and spaces of social interaction between students, faculty, and colleges. Its 14 story continuous circulation travels through spaces that invoke a sense of communal learning, research, and practice, featuring study areas, cafes, an open auditorium and exterior terraces.
Among the most alluring aspects of the design, is the manifestation of section design in the facade. The vertical relationship of space can be read sectionally, simply by looking at the facade.
Designing in section is among the most important elements of the design concept in any project. Many people are familiar with floor plans, and while they are most likely the most recognizable “architectural drawing”, section drawings can be just as important and in many cases, more important. I’ll use a project of my own as an example.
In this drawing for a project I did in first semester, both plan (top two drawings) and section (bottom) can be seen. the importance of section design is that it allows for moves to be made in a vertical orientation, potentially leading to intricate spatial relationships with spaces that do not necessarily share the same horizontal plane. As seen in this section drawing, the buildings base is thinner than its top. This was a major design concept in the project, which dealt with spatial expansion and compression.
A lot of “architectural lingo” in this post. Anybody who is interested in learning more about architectural design has to learn to understand spatial relationships, and today’s featured DS+R project, and my section example at the end are great ways for people who are not studying architecture, to be able to relate more to the dialogue that I strive to create on my blog. As always, thank you for your support and please comment your thoughts, questions, and opinions, it helps us all learn more.
Project Images taken by: Nic Lehoux and Iwan Baan