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SUNY Downstate Medical Center Public Health/Academic Building: Construction

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Lee Rose, project manager

Downstate’s new Public Health/Academic Building under construction will house the School of Public Health, open-plan research laboratories, a state-of-the-art clinical simulation center, and multi-function spaces designed to accommodate team-based learning. Situated between the Basic Sciences Building (BSB) and Clarkson Avenue, the new building’s entrance plaza will open into an expansive lobby serving both buildings.

The 112,701 square-feet, 8-story building, which was designed to meet LEED Silver energy conservation and DMC sustainability standards, will provide a comfortable learning setting for Downstate students, as well as an accessible venue for professional development.

The project was designed by Ennead Architects, whose prior projects include the William Clinton Presidential Library, the Rose Center for Air and Space at the American Natural History Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum Entry Pavillion and Plaza. The project is being managed for Downstate by the  State University Construction Fund (SUCF). Gilbane Inc. will serve as construction manager, and Tutor Pirnie Corporation is general contractor.

The building’s design is based on three stacked linear “bars” of varying length, depth and height. This arrangement of form and shifting volumes provides a dynamic counterpoint to the monolithic solidity of the BSB and is meant to create a strong, modern institutional identity for SUNY Downstate and a new “face” on Clarkson Avenue.

The building’s form and image speak to the future, expressing the vitality of progressive ideals of education and research – while paying homage to Downstate’s accomplished history through its connection to the BSB. The building symbolizes departure and connection, the future and the past, and innovation and legacy.

Building Organization

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The design enables interdisciplinary interaction. Gathering spaces and corridor intersections will encourage social and intellectual interactions between students and faculty. The new building will connect to the BSB at three levels: at the First Floor for public access; at the Basement level for service access; and at the Seventh Floor for research use. Each of the three bars of the building has a distinct personality:

Bar 1: 1st – 2nd Floor. The first bar contains a double-height entry lobby (open and integrated with the existing BSB lobby), social spaces, and flexible instructional spaces. It features a welcoming entry plaza, which will be the new front door to the existing academic campus.



Bar 2: 3rd – 5th Floor. The second bar contains the School of Public Health administrative offices and state-of-the-art simulation center. The longest of the bars, its mass is centered on the BSB in celebration of the existing symmetry and in deference to the BSB’s historical significance as the first building on campus. Private offices within the second bar will be located along the perimeter, while public shared spaces and open offices will be centrally located to maximize flexibility. A sixth floor is excluded because of elevation alignments with the existing Basic Sciences Building.

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Bar 3: 7th, 8th and Mechanical Floors. The third bar contains research laboratories and the mechanical penthouse. It is shifted slightly to the east to allow for uninterrupted lab benches along the north face and maximized program efficiency. This bar connects to the BSB at the 7th floor.


Outdoor Lighting and Exterior Signage

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The outdoor lighting will provide safety, security and comfort for staff, students and visitors to SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Illuminated inclined columns will provide a focal point to the entrance at night. In addition to illuminating the walkway and building entry, the exterior lighting will enhance exterior building signage.




The entry to the building is centered on the original main entry to the BSB, with an off-center open space leading to the entrance. The entrance plaza will be sheltered by the upper floors of the building and will afford access via several broad steps and ramp.

The exterior northern spaces address the challenges of a significant site grade change. The new landscape plan by SCAPE Landscape Architects provides for universal accessibility, access to utility vaults, vehicular access and building and site security maintenance.

The different pavements – concrete pavers, flagstones, and stone aggregates – complement the colors and proportions of the building facade. These various finishes and textures lock into the landscape at the edges, and with the plantings scheme slip past each other to create an interwoven edge.

Plantings at the pavement edge, between the BSB and the new building will be those varieties found in the deep shade of a forest, including perennial plants such as ferns and evergreen groundcovers. These planted zones transition into lawn where brighter conditions allow. The plan incorporates water-efficient landscaping by using native and adapted plants where possible.

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