Columbia University Medical Center faculty and students broke ground at the new Medical and Graduate Education Building Monday evening.
The new building, located on Haven Avenue between 171st and 172nd streets in Washington Heights, is expected to be completed by 2016 and will solve some of the medical center’s long-standing space issues.
“When I came 10 years ago, it was clear that space was the biggest, most immediate problem we needed to solve,” University President Lee Bollinger said. “We set out to resolve that.”
The building is funded in part by a $20 million donation from Philip Milstein, CC ’71, and Cheryl Milstein, BC ’82, and a $50 million donation from Roy Vagelos, P&S ’54, and Diana Vagelos, BC ’55. It will house new classrooms, study and lab space, and a high-tech medical procedure simulation center.
“This building is iconic in itself,” Bollinger said. “It will define the campus and Columbia.”
The modern design, which is headed by architecture firms Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Gensler, includes floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a rooftop terrace that will overlook the Hudson River, blending academic and social space.
“There is no building like it anywhere,” Lee Goldman, dean of faculties of health sciences and medicine, said.
Administrators said that they hope the new building will both address the needs of current students and attract new students to Columbia.
“Our top priority was to create the best possible educational building for the best medical students in the country,” Goldman said. “This building symbolizes why most medical and graduate students come to Columbia.”
The construction of the new building is part of the effort to transform CUMC’s Washington Heights campus.
“It will create an uptown campus with the same feeling as a downtown campus,” Anne Taylor, vice dean of academic affairs for the medical center, said. “When you think about the expense and difficulty of building in New York, it’s quite a feat.”
At Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony, administrators, donors, and architects staged a photo opportunity on-site, shoveling dirt to kick off the project. They then gathered for a reception down the street, where attendees heard from Bollinger and Goldman.
Students in attendance said they were excited about the possibility of collaboration between the school’s medical programs and departments.
“There are 11 or 12 different programs that function within themselves,” Austen Sitko, GSAS ’14, said. “It’s nice to finally have one unified space.”
“This building will continue to inspire exchange between medical and graduate students,” Gina Farias-Eisner, P&S ’13, said.
“Columbia is a unique place in that there’s a sense of tradition and legacy, but also excitement in pursuing the future,” Farias-Eisner added.