by the numbers:
Students, faculty, and staff
New faculty positions
Additional doctors being
educated in Buffalo each
Cost of the project in
Custom terra cotta panels
used in cladding made
by Boston Valley Terra
Cotta, forming the high-
Ribbon glass panels
Square feet of glass on
Huge skylights that flood
the atrium with natural
Dollar value of the
The largest building
dedicated to medical
construction in the United
that wrap-around to create and embrace the atrium feature. According to Kenneth Drucker,
design principal for HOK architects’ New York and Philadelphia offices, the Allen Street recess
“rivals the space of the atrium and allows daylight to get deep into the building.” There’s another
reveal on the Washington Street side of the building performing the same function.
Drucker wanted one of the masonry volumes to be taller than the other. The taller structure
is next to the Roosevelt apartment building (at Main and Carlton) so that it appears to be more
of a tower. From this south end of the building, the structure climbs with the topography of Main
Street and floats above it with an angular canopy that engages the rapid transit station.
The building has no front or back. All the facades are equally important, but it was decided
that the main entrance would be at the corner of Main and High Streets. Because of the need to
separate the public and academic uses, the second floor becomes the ground floor of the medical
school. Its lobby features a tower of changeable light. Stairs ascend upward to what the architect
describes as the piano nobile level, thereby allowing pedestrians to pass through the building as
it connects to the rest of the medical campus.
Light and exposed infrastructure
Kelly Hayes Macalonie, associate director of Capital, Facilities, and Space Planning for the University, led the initial planning for the new medical school building. Working within the mandate
for its downtown location and leading the preprogramming, that work became the criteria for the
architectural competition led by dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, Bob Shibley.
The initial planning included examination of a changing pedagogy in medical education, location
and site analysis, costs and resources, and elaborate orchestration of logistical questions. The vigorous planning may be a good part of the reason the actual construction of the facility proceeded
smoothly with remarkably few glitches. The winner of the architectural competition was HOK,
a global architectural design firm with seventeen hundred employees and offices in twenty-three
cities. HOK’s Drucker notes that the intent was always to make the building contextual with Buffalo’s rich architectural tradition, so the use of terra cotta made sense, especially given the polychromatic nature of City Hall. With the white terra cotta Roosevelt Building immediately next
door, Drucker decided there should be a contrasting color. The result is a building clad in custom
terra cotta panels crafted by Boston Valley Terra Cotta.
Light is an important element of the design. Drucker points out that the key to a successful
large-footprint building is to let in natural light. Hence, the large fenestrations on the facades,
which relate to the urban scale and then to the medical school scale. In order to get daylight deep
into the floor plate, the atrium is punctured with seven skylights.
With the trend in academia involving interdisciplinary sciences, the intent was to create spaces
where students and faculty can casually congregate. That opportunity for casual collisions is welcomed by the more informal lighting of the lounge spaces. The large unobstructed windows on
the exterior and the atrium interior clearly convey the intent for the building occupant to see out,
but also to be seen as well. Every office, conference room, and simulation operating room has full
views from the atrium and various floors above and below. When asked about this, Drucker notes,
“When we design science and educational buildings, we look for transparency between different
disciplines. We want openness, a free exchange of information, and for everyone to see what’s
going on.” Therefore, the sharing of information is facilitated and encouraged by the design.
The new medical school is both a teaching and research facility, meant to attract and retain
faculty, increase prospective student interest, and increase enrollment. Its goal is to improve care
and clinical services. Its downtown presence, adjacent to the medical campus, puts it right in the
heartbeat of the medical community and will mold the culture of its students.
The structure itself consists of bold intersections, with huge cross-braces that powerfully slice
through stacks of floors, creating vibrant dialogues with users. Stairways are not hidden in the
recesses of enclosed dark stairwells, but instead are sculptural, exposed, even flaunted. They
dynamically—and invitingly—rise up or down. All the while, users are engaged in observing of
a panorama of activities in each of what seem like performance spaces. The expression “All the
world is a stage” might apply here: all the school is a stage—a living demonstration of the art and
science of medical care.
Flexible working spaces
There are a series of classrooms, each with modular units and dividable spaces. Two fifty-seat
spaces become a single space for one hundred. Two lecture halls that accommodate one hundred
ten become one for two hundred twenty. Another pair of lecture halls which each hold two hundred twenty have raised partitions to now seat four hundred forty. Group learning rooms are outfitted with enormous touch monitors and white boards.
Hi-tech surgical suites, laboratories, and conference rooms are bright and generous in space.
Surgical robotics, gross anatomy labs, and flexible spaces abound. Clinical competency is monitored from eighteen exam rooms where cameras videotape techniques, which are then critiqued
on monitors in debriefing rooms. The Simulation Center offers a hospital floor setting complete
with nurse stations, patient rooms, and control rooms for observation of skills.
The first floor includes a built-out space for the medical school’s Museum of Neuroanatomy.
Its display windows to the public spaces are also framed in birdseye maple. Founded in 1944,
it is said to be the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to the brain. The