Stairwells are built for bodies in motion. The vertical spaces are often sequestered and unadorned, offering little more than a means of getting from here to there when the elevator is broken (or a bit of indoor exercise for the ambitious souls looking to amp up their heart-rate after the morning commute). The ever-prolific Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in collaboration with Gensler, have recently unveiled plans for a new medical and graduate education building on the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) campus, and the 14-story facility transforms landings into social hubs, uniting people and place from top to bottom while flights get the best views of uptown Manhattan.
Each ascending level of the south-facing “Study Cascade” offers a floor-to-ceiling window onto the wide world of New York. Opening up the interior with these terraces will ideally allow for a more collaborative environment between the four CUMC Schools sharing the structure: P&S, Nursing, Dental Medicine and the Mailman School of Public Health. Classrooms, collaboration areas, an auditorium, cafés, lounges, and a high-tech medical simulation center fill out the North side of the building. All of this was made possible by a staggering $50 million gift from an alumnus. Construction is set to start next year, and once it’s finished in 2016, an invitation to go spend some quiet time in the stairwell definitely won’t be as suggestive (or creepy) as it sounds.