For years, Stanford Medical School was contained within Stanford Hospital, constructed in 1959. In 2001, a new dean made it his mission to create a united medical school campus with a strong physical presence, related to, but separate from the hospital.
Existing lab buildings were integrated into a compact, urban composition organized by a loose grid of bike/pedestrian “streets” in an area that had been a massive hospital parking lot.
An open grid of pedestrian ways allows adjustments over time without losing key cross-campus alignments and relationships between programs. A central 30’ wide spine was established titled “Discovery Walk” and carries the largest load of pedestrians, bikes, and electric carts.
All of the pedestrian connectors become a linear sequence of eddy spaces for small group gatherings and social engagement. The new alumni green is framed by existing oak groves and is where campus wide events are held.
Discovery Walk is a collaborative art project that speaks of the medical school’s identity and heritage. The story of the school and its famous individuals is told on 400 granite panels photo-etched with photographs, letters, and medical illustrations illuminating a dynamic history.
The jury said, “ . . . very transformative . . . huge commitment of institution . . . eloquently executed . . . elegant, simple solution . . .. still retains sense of individuality . . .”
The project preserves the overall character through use of materials, practices and climate response. It achieves a balance with features and story-telling unique to this school and to faculty who are seeking a new physical presence where none previously existed.
The narrative art project instilled a new sense of pride in students who often bring friends and parents to see the walk. It allows students to learn the personal stories of important researchers, their times, investigative methods, and idiosyncrasies.
Additional efforts were made to integrate historic artifacts and information in the landscape. Old building columns from the 19th century San Francisco campus were recovered and interpreted in the preserved oak grove.
“Through new, larger planning and landscape efforts, the identity of the medical school at the university has gone from being considered an insular, separate entity to an integrated partner,” says Chris Shay, Director of Projects, Stanford University School of Medicine.
Project Team: Stanford University for Stanford Medical School Campus with Tom Leader Studio; also NBBJ; ZGF