Stanford Med School Gets Alternative Remedy

A modern interpretation of red-tile roofs and limestone masonry.

Stanford University has been commissioning a storm of new buildings, and it just opened the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, the centerpiece for its med school. The $90.2 million project squeezes in a range of programs, including a mock operating theater for training purposes, a 350-seat conference hall, and the student center. Visually, the building needed to be the “greeter” for Stanford Medical School, which previously had no architectural focal point. San Francisco firm NBBJ went for a touch of the neoclassical, with a deep overhang anchored by columns.

What’s interesting here is how the architects grappled with the design guidelines of the university, which call for red roofs and limestone cladding to match the historic California Mission-style buildings of the main campus.  Here, the fascia and underside of that overhang are actually covered in Trespa rainscreen panels, printed to look like mahogany or similarly dark wood.  The architects were looking for a low-maintenance material to give them some natural texture. While it’s definitely not the same effect as you’d get with real wood, it’s a clever way to get “red” onto the roof.

Also significant is how the medical school made a big symbolic gesture to its students by devoting the top floor–with some of the best views anywhere on campus–into a student lounge and fitness center.  Only medical students and a few select faculty will be allowed to hang out on the patio (right under that big overhang) and jog on the treadmills overlooking those views.  Now, if only the school could do something about the insane work shifts in medical residency.

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