Up with the New
Buffalo Life Sciences Complex
The Buffalo Life Sciences Complex at Ellicott and Virginia Streets is the Buffalo and Niagara Medical Campus’s newest building and a major complex in itself. It houses the State University of New York at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences as well as Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Center for Genetics and Pharmacology in a truly dynamic 290,000 square-foot-complex.
The block-spanning Life Sciences Complex is recognizable by its unique façade: a series of sculptural elements clad in white. The exterior materials are aluminum, zinc, glass, and brick. The glazed panels are a pure, crisp white. (The color white made a huge architectural splash when it appeared on CitiCorp’s iconic Manhattan skyscraper in the seventies.) In the palette of earthtones that seems to form much of today’s built environment, the selection of white seems new and daring all over again.
If you view the building from Virginia Street, there’s a vertical mass of red brick that subtly delineates the division, with UB’s four-story building to the left, and Roswell’s five-story section to the right. The internal connections will allow the two institutions unique capabilities to collaborate while maintaining their individual identities.
In their design, the team from the firm of Francis Cauffman of Philadelphia aimed to express the world-class research and technological innovation happening within. The cantilevered sculptural volumes on the Roswell side of the façade are a combination of conference meeting areas and stairways. Those mid-floor stairs are designed as a place for staff to interact: they’re surrounded by conference rooms to encourage collaboration and discussion.
In fact, the building is really about those interior spaces: large laboratories, wide spaces, and a great use of clerestory windows. Mechanicals are boldly exposed throughout the building, as is a fantastic glass-enclosed service stairwell, an element that in another facility might have been hidden in concrete block.
The interiors of the building are sophisticated and contemporary. Natural maple mixes with brushed steel and glass. Lobbies have terrazzo floors whose grays and charcoals continue through carpet tile, rubber, and linoleum flooring. The laboratories are oak with black composite surfaces. Perforated maple (almost like a retro pegboard) pops up on an occasional ceiling and on stair-walls.
For Roswell Park, this is the most recent expansion of an institution that was founded in 1898 and was the first cancer center in the United States. The Center for Genetics and Pharmacology was built to house its internationally renowned cancer genetics research team and innovative drug development program.
UB’s New York State Center of Excellence merges high-end technology (such as supercomputing and visualization) with research excellence in genomics, proteomics, and bio-imaging. It was founded to study the mechanics of disease and develop diagnostic tools, therapeutic interventions, and preventative treatments. Bioinformatics merges aspects of applied math, biology, statistics, information technology, and computer science to solve biological problems and is known as a powerful weapon in the fight against disease.
The momentum is just starting at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with substantial plans for landscaping and the extension of Allen Street. My hopeful prognosis is that in the organism of the city, this spread of healthy cells can continue to regenerate adjacent blocks of urban stock.