Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center


Located in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, the 10,000 square-meter Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center is part of the Columbia University Medical Center. Completed in 2016, the building reflects a paradigm shift in medical education from passive, lecture-based instruction to team-based problem solving, while simultaneously responding to the site’s narrow footprint and tapered zoning envelope. In contrast to the traditional, institutional nature of medical education buildings—characterized by low-slung ceilings, densely-packed programs, and double-loaded corridors— the 14-story glass tower’s ‘Study Cascade’ extends campus activity along the south elevation of the building with a diverse network of social and study spaces for informal learning and collaboration. The wide array of spaces—which include exterior terraces, a stepped lounge, individual study spaces, and a 275-seat auditorium—also produce oversized, occupiable landings on a continuous staircase that connects the activities of all four of Columbia’s medical schools. As a counterpart, the north elevation is dedicated to more controlled, specialized learning spaces that include flexible classrooms, anatomy laboratories, and a simulation center. These include both cadaver and simulation-based examination rooms designed to foster empathy for patients and precision through robotic training. The Cascade, in combination with the specialized classrooms and labs, offers students and faculty a range of spatial experiences, with opportunities to work alone or in groups, in public or behind closed doors, in light or shadow, during school hours or any other time of day or night.

  • Aerial view
    Aerial view
  • View into the social and study spaces that comprise the study cascade
    View into the social and study spaces that comprise the study cascade
  • Lobby
  • Lobby stairway connecting to auditorium and simulation center below
  • 300-seat multi-purpose auditorium and exterior terrace
  • Anatomy lab
  • View onto tiered Study Cascade
  • View of Study Cascade from level 14 looking towards the Hudson River
  • Study lounge
  • Exterior terrace
  • Student Commons
  • Aerial with view of Hudson River
Project information
ClientColumbia University Medical CenterSize (GSF)110000
Location         New York, United States
Partner-in-ChargeElizabeth Diller
Principal DesignerRicardo Scofidio,Charles Renfro,and Benjamin Gilmartin
Project DirectorAnthony Saby
Project ArchitectChris Hillyard
Core Design TeamChris Andreacola,Robert Donnelly,Joshua Jow,Matt Ostrow,Barak Pliskin,Gerard Sullivan,Jesse Saylor,Jack Solomon,and Elizabeth Wisecarver
External credits
GenslerExecutive Architect and Graphic Designers
Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA)Structural Engineer
Jaros Baum & Bolles (JB&B)MEP Engineer and Security and IT Consultants
SCAPE/Landscape ArchitectureLandscape Architect
Buro Happold Consulting Engineers P.C.Curtain Wall Consultants
Tillotson Design AssociatesLighting Consultants
    Photography by Iwan Baan and Nic Lehoux