With its light-filled space, new med center is 'warm and welcoming'
Daily News Exclusive
By VALERIE RUSS
Philadelphia Daily News
THE VAST LOBBY of Temple University's new $165 million School of Medicine is a warm, open space with a sprawling student-faculty lounge nestled inside an atrium filled with light that pours in from the all-glass facade that gives a view of Broad Street.
At the entrance is a soothing "glass water wall," called a "wubble wall" because of the two panels of undulating bubbles on either side of the waterfall.
Depending on the day, the waterfall could be cast in a hazy purple light, a cool misty green or any variety of colors.
The water wall has two purposes, said Dr. John M. Daly, dean of the medical school.
It's a beautiful and calming art creation, but it also serves "to separate what's going on inside here [in the relaxed atmosphere of the lounge] from all the hubbub" as people come and go through the med school's main doors.
"I like it, it's beautiful!" Alicia Worden, a fourth-year medical student, said of the building, which takes up the entire block of Broad Street between Tioga and Venango. "It's very welcoming and it has a ton of spaces where you can study."
Because Worden, 25, has finished her classes and spends most of her time in patient services at Temple University Hospital, she said, she comes to the medical school mainly to study in its spacious library: three light-filled floors connected by a spiral staircase.
"There are all sorts of quiet spaces to study in," she said.
The medical building - officially, Temple University's Medical Education and Research Building - is a state-of-the-art, 11-story, 249,000-square-foot building that opened to students in August.
Its official grand opening will be celebrated during three days of activities next Thursday to Saturday.
Daly, who graduated from Temple's Medical School in 1973, noted that it had been 40 years since Temple had constructed a medical building.
The Kresge Building, the old medical school, built in 1968, was the last new building, opening shortly before Daly arrived as a medical student in 1969.
The new building "is a dream come true," Daly said during a recent tour of the facility.
There are 16 flexible learning classrooms with walls that can expand to accommodate a large class or collapse for smaller, more-intimate "problem-solving classes," he said.
There is a robotic-simulation center, where students can practice doctoring and surgical skills with mannequins, simulations or actor-patients.
This feature, available in many med schools in recent years, allows students to learn clinical skills without the added stress of checking on a real patient in a roomful of worried relatives.
There are also state-of-the-art research labs with an "open bench" system so researchers can talk with one another rather than be closed off in smaller, separate rooms.
Kevin Murphy, a third-year medical student, said the new building "is good for Temple's future with the expanded research facilities."
Currently the eighth and ninth floors are "shell floors," left vacant for future expansion, Daly said. When they are completed, the total building cost will jump from $165 million to $180 million, he said.
Until now, most Philadelphians have been able only to watch as the building started to rise above Broad Street, directly across from the Shriners Hospitals for Children and Temple University Hospital's Boyer Pavilion.
The colossal building is made of glass and brick, its most striking feature a shimmering, all-glass, concave exterior facing Broad Street.
Inside the building, an oval-shaped tower of glass-walled conference rooms provides spectacular views of the city, from the Betsy Ross to the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges, as well as views of the Center City skyline.
Craig Spangler, a principal with Ballinger Inc., the Center City architectural and engineering firm that built the medical school, said that all-glass walls were chosen because "the university had a desire to show a new, progressive school that would be a very positive and welcoming structure."
"Dr. Daly talked about this becoming a beacon on Broad Street and having a way to show the life of the building inside," Spangler said.
This is a dramatic change from most of the older Temple Health Science buildings, which "are hermetical," or walled-off and closed to the public, the architect said.
The dean said that the openness of the glass exterior is intended to serve as a portal between the medical school and the wider world.
"The students can look out and see their neighbors in their daily interactions," Daly said. That will drive home the message that "it's all about the people. Medicine is all about helping people."
At the same time, he added, "We want the public to be able to look inside and see how future doctors are educated."
Spangler, the principal architect, said that the building's various geometric shapes - the curved glass facade; the brick "block" of the research wing and the oval glass tower of conference rooms at the southeast corner - "all act as a symphony of forms."
The building's design has another impact, too, Spangler said.
He said that he envisioned the soaring tower of the medical school on the west side of Broad, paired with the nine-story Shriners Hospital on the east side of Broad as forming "a gateway structure" for commuters driving south on Broad toward the city.
This "gateway" serves as a visual marker of entering the "realm of the Temple Health Sciences campus," and the broader city as well, he said.