In 2004, leaders of the city of Phoenix decided to address why it was one of the only major U.S. metropolises without a medical school. The decision was made to create the Phoenix Biomedical Campus (PBC), an 11-hectare (28-acre) downtown project with more than 50,000 square metres (550,000 square feet) of research, academic, and clinical facilities. This effort included the city of Phoenix, the state of Arizona, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona.

Name of the Studio: CO Architects
Design Team:
Paul Zajfen, FAIA, RIBA, design principal
Scott Kelsey, FAIA, principal-in-charge
Jonathan Kanda, FAIA, LEED AP, principal/project architect
Andy Labov, FAIA, LEED AP, principal/senior architect
Jenna Knudsen, AIA, LEED AP, principal/senior architect
Arnold Swanborn, AIA, LEED AP, principal/senior design architect
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Associate Architect, Master Planner: Ayers Saint Gross
Contractor, Preconstruction, Construction Manager at Risk: DPR Construction • Sundt Construction
Rainscreen Manufacturer: Kovach
Landscape Architect: JJR
Lighting Designer: Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Lighting
Structural Engineer: John A. Martin & Associates
MEP Engineer: AEI Engineers
Civil Engineer: Dibble Engineering
Climate Engineer: Transsolar Energietechnik
Geotechnical Engineer: Professional Service Industries
Area: 25,000m2
Year: 2012
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, US
Photographer: Bill Timmerman

Health Sciences Education Building by CO Architects - Sheet3
©Bill Timmerman

PBC’s signature building is the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB). Opened in 2012, it expanded the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, located in Tucson (185 kilometres/115 miles from Phoenix). The interdisciplinary facility offers clinical care and teaching, encompassing the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix, the UA College of Pharmacy, and the NAU College of Allied Health Sciences.

The building’s façade is influenced by its desert location. Its profile features angular fissures through its elevations, inspired by desert land formations. Because Arizona is known as The Copper State, 26 varieties of burnished copper were chosen for the façade to mimic the stratified earth layers of the desert landscape. The copper used is 99.9% recycled material.

Health Sciences Education Building by CO Architects - Sheet5
©Bill Timmerman

The HSEB’s footprint has two academic wings, which frame a ‘canyon.’ This chasm serves as a central courtyard and projects natural light deep into the structure.

Heat gain was critical in the HSEB’s design. An east-west orientation addresses this, and overhangs and vertical fins shade the facade. The HSEB’s western side features a canopy over its glazed main entrance.

Health Sciences Education Building by CO Architects - Sheet9
©Bill Timmerman

Internally, the HSEB’s interactive planning process involved input from the departments and disciplines it houses—all brought together rather than segregated. The 6-story building includes flexible classrooms, laboratories, clinical examination suites, library, offices, student lounges, and a café.

The HSEB successfully combines several organizations to present the future of interdisciplinary higher education. Its striking copper façade symbolically references the local Arizona desert and mountains.


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