CO Architects (design architects and interior designers) worked closely with SERA Architects (executive architect) to create the design for the Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB), an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional campus in a first-of-its kind partnership for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Oregon State University (OSU), and Portland State University (PSU). The building achieves this in the form of a 12-story complex with 500,000 square feet of space for classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories for research and teaching, including medical simulation laboratories for high-tech, team-based learning. The building is conceived as an innovative model of interdisciplinary health sciences education and research, engaging students, faculty, and pedestrians through a concept of “health science on display.” The project has received LEED Platinum certification, and was named one of the 2015 Top Ten Green buildings by the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment.
CLSB, clad in steel and glass, comprises three great volumes; the five-story south wing, connecting glass atrium, and the 12-story Skourtes Tower. The tower contains teaching, medical research, and science labs, mechanical spaces, offices, and a dental school on top. The south wing houses a leading-edge medical simulation suite for teaching, as well as administrative offices and classrooms.
Visitors enter from four points of arrival, heading toward their destinations through the open, transparent atrium, which exemplifies the idea of “health science on display.” Although there is ample underground parking, most people will arrive by bicycle, on foot, or by public transit. Sightlines through, above, around, and below positions in and around the grand atrium provide clarity.
Suspended walkways are a commanding feature of the glass atrium and bring to mind Portland’s nearby bridges. They also work as an interior and urban translation of the typical grassy collegiate campus grounds, where students’ short cuts across formal quads carve diagonal paths. The walkways proclaim, with dramatic flair, the vision and practical nature of this innovative interdisciplinary, multi-institutional facility. Literally bridging gaps between disciplines, the walkways enable efficient circulation among areas, and allow for critical casual conversation and collaboration on landings equipped with seating areas.
Sunlight bathes atrium spaces through glass curtain walls and a glass roof that is supported by slender, high “tree” columns. Another striking feature, a jewel box-like structure, protrudes beyond the plane of the glass curtain wall. This dividable lecture hall is lifted above the ground floor by column and brace supports. Clad in wood-textured panels, the lecture box differentiates itself from the glass building, although it ties into parts of the atrium cladding. A 400-seat lecture hall, a 200-seat lecture space, and a library can be seen through this volume looking into the atrium. The student lounge on the top of the box offers an indoor-outdoor space central to the daily life of the building.
Daylighting is a driving concept of the building’s overall design of the Skourtes Tower as well, with labs open to daylight on two sides. To enable this, support spaces are moved to the center of the floor plan and interlaced with the lab areas, exposing broad expanses of space to daylight. Office spaces are on the east side of the tower, adjacent to the labs, with a glazed, connecting staircase leading, at every-other floor, to communal spaces for conferences or lounges. All of those communal spaces enjoy views of the river and landscape. The building’s dental school, on the top four floors of the tower, includes a lobby and has panoramic views.
Increased focus on patient safety, team-based learning, and technology-integrated clinical care has placed emphasis on simulation as an essential part of a high-quality and rigorous medical education. CO Architects’ long-range experience in both health care and education contributes to the site-specific simulation center at CLSB. The fourth-floor center, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, is flexible, open and expansive, accommodating collaborative, clinical team training across disciplines and exemplifying the collaborative nature of the entire school.
CLSB’s interiors are program driven, using basic materials of polished concrete, drywall, and wood. Laboratory areas have maple benches and epoxy countertops, which, as with other finishes throughout the building, reflect light, underscoring the daylighting effect. Bright white abounds on interior walls, with a fresh color scheme of lime green, tropical blue, sunny yellow, and vivid red lining staircases. Furniture in lounges is comfortable and moveable to encourage conversations and collaborations among students and researchers.
The architect also worked with the client and other stakeholders to bring two colorful, bold pieces by Los Angeles-based artists to the building. A provocative piece by Pae White uses LED (light-emitting diode) tubes to cast light in a spectrum of colors across atrium soffits. Christian Moeller’s 40-foot-high outdoor sculpture reflects science and medicine with enormous red fiberglass spheres conjuring molecular structures.
CLSB’S diverse spaces come together in a building and site with numerous sustainable features that contribute to the project’s LEED Platinum rating—from amelioration of the brownfield site to on-street access to public transit. The site design features light-pollution reduction, storm-water management, and green roofs that serve to both reduce storm-water runoff and provide native habitat for species. Inside the building, water collected from the roof provides non-potable water for toilet flushing. Energy efficiency features include high-efficiency lighting, a tuned building envelope that responds to the climate, heat recovery from the atrium, and low-ventilation fume hoods. In addition, the project incorporates an innovative material re-use strategy that includes salvaging oil drilling pipes for foundation piles and repurposing existing site fencing.
The energy model predicts the building will save 32% more energy than a typical baseline building would, supporting the project’s initial goal of 30% savings. The project is planning to implement measurement and verification strategies to track performance.