Stanford University School of Medicine Center for Academic Medicine

Project Description

Nestled in the southwest corner of the university’s 19th-century, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed arboretum, the Center for Academic Medicine at Stanford University is the new home for the schools’ medical education faculty. The Center provides a refuge of respite and rejuvenation for clinical educators and the community, establishing a workplace that promotes interaction between occupants and the outdoor environment, and supports their health and wellbeing.

Rising four stories tall, the 170,000-square-foot building is comprised of three office wings enveloping a central courtyard, inviting the forest and meadows of the arboretum to flow into the courtyard and envelop the building. Fondly referred to as “The Treehouse”, the Center serves as an extension of the arboretum experience, immersing educators in a natural environment of respite and rejuvenation.

Lifting the west wing two stories above the ground draws the nature preserve under and through the structure, forming a large two-story porch below. By expanding the arboretum into the project site, the Center is essentially inside the arboretum itself.

The ground level was designed as public open space and features a host of amenities, including a fitness center, café, a conferencing center, and generous outdoor seating. These diverse spaces are tuned to provide comfort: breeze and shade in the summer; calm and direct sunlight in the winter. Like a modern-day Janus Gate, the outdoor porch acts as a social hub and portal linking the arboretum to Stanford Medicine’s hospitals and School of Medicine.

Through a “passive solution first” philosophy, the Center was tailored to take full advantage of the site – from planning decisions driven by sun, wind, and ecosystem to the building details. The optimized façade responds to differing environmental conditions on each face, meeting specific solar heat gain targets while optimizing comfort and daylight. Integrated systems are connected to a central plant enabling hydronic provision of cooling and heat recovery for increased efficiency.

The design takes advantage of the mild Northern California climate by moving 20 percent of the program beyond the building’s walls. Stanford’s community can socialize and work in a diverse mix of outdoor spaces. Porches, balconies, and covered walkways extend from the building. Upper terraces create the sensation of being in the trees.

Inside, no one is more than 30 feet from a window and views of nature. The abundant daylight and fresh air energize occupants. The colors, textures and patterns of the arboretum’s landscape have been abstracted to form a biophilic palette for the interior.

Social, cognitive and physical benefits of interacting with nature have long been known, and the creation of comfortable and flexible outdoor workspaces support individual health, especially given the conditions of the pandemic.