Austin, Texas, United States
The first new medical school to be built from the ground up at a Tier One public university in the United States in almost 50 years
Three entities — Dell Medical School, Dell Seton Medical Center, and Central Texas Health — started with a unified campus master plan to guide the redevelopment of 65 underutilized acres on the southeast side of The University of Texas at Austin. Page joined Sasaki Associates in developing the master plan for a mixed-use district to propel research, attract investment and signal Austin’s focus on becoming a model healthy city.
Page was the design architect for the Health Learning Building, which serves as the educational center, in association with The SLAM Collaborative. The firm was the architect of record in association with ZGF Architects on the additional two buildings, the Health Transformation and the Health Discovery Buildings, as well as a parking garage. Page also provided Building Sciences and Branding / Graphics services.
- Branding / Graphics
- Planning / Urban Design
- Building Sciences
Finding a voice for a new medical school
Looking at everything with fresh eyes and a new start led to the creation of the “Rethink Everything” identity and campaign. The Page Branding / Graphics studio also developed wayfinding and extensive brand guidelines used for print and digital collateral pieces, including video. The identity has been an effective tool for promoting the school and its greater vision of transforming healthcare.
Dell Medical wanted to make sure it would be easy for everyone to reach their destinations easily. It was important for the school to also be accessible to members of the community. This customized microsite map is a seamless experience from the physical to the digital wayfinding. All destinations and landmarks have photos to facilitate the wayfinding experience.
Leading the way
The first completed project in the medical district, the Health Learning Building makes a bold statement as a gateway to the medical school campus. Skinned in traditional Texas limestone, the southern, eastern, and western elevations glow in the intense sunshine. South windows have terracotta colored glass sunshades as well as a deep horizontal overhang on the fifth level to reduce heat gain.
Continuing an old school tradition
Limestone for the building comes from the same quarry that has supplied UT Austin for over 80 years. The design treats this traditional material in a new and innovative way. Its trapezoidal form creates a gentle curve that softens intense sunlight. A CNC automated milling machine operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week for more than nine months to cut more than 10,000 pieces of stone.
The social edge
The glass curtain wall on the northern elevation draws soft light deep into the building and provides visual connections from the public gathering and circulation spaces on this edge to a courtyard shaded by Heritage Live Oak trees. The transparency of the north facade connects building to the courtyard and nearby civic landmarks, including the UT Austin Tower.
Located on the ground floor, the 120-seat Team-Based Learning Auditorium hosts classes where medical students learn alongside peers in UT Austin’s nursing and pharmacy schools. Tables and chairs on wheels support easy shifts between traditional lectures and “flipped instruction”. Privacy screens double as whiteboards, and all workstations can push content to the centralized A/V system.
Fostering camaraderie through design
The Health Learning Building’s interior spaces express and support collaboration between faculty and students of multiple disciplines. Airy, light-filled social spaces along the building’s northern edge encourage collaboration and camaraderie. Efforts to build community have worked. Out of the inaugural medical school class, more than half the students traveled together during spring break, which is unheard of in upper academia.
A sculptural stair, which students have nicknamed “Dell Mountain”, leads from the first floor reception area all the way to the fifth. The stair acts as a spine that organizes academic, social and administrative spaces, while encouraging physical activity and providing open sight lines that facilitate interactions outside the classroom.
Transparency and connectivity
A virtual library tucks beneath the monumental stair. Spacious lounges, each equipped with a kitchen and comfortable seating, connect to the Social Edge via oversized sliding glass doors. Wooden slat ceilings inject warmth, provide a sense of enclosure, and draw the eye upward as well as create acoustical absorption.
Tradition and technology
Although simulations are an increasingly popular means of teaching human anatomy, Dell Medical School’s curriculum favors a traditional approach using human cadavers. This gross anatomy laboratory combines the best of tradition and innovation by integrating overhead technology that allows students to push information to flat screens.
Visualizing healthcare as a human touch
O N E E V E R Y O N E is a commissioned public art photography project by Ann Hamilton. It is framed by the idea that human touch and intimacy are the fundamental expression of physical care. Members of the Austin community are pictured in multiple forms and captured in a library of images that will enhance future buildings of the medical complex.
First, do no harm
The Dell Medical School District is one of the first certified Gold by Sustainable SITES v2 Initiative. Planning included an urban, native plant oasis that is restoring Waller Creek, which traverses the campus, by removing invasive plants, restoring native species, improving stormwater drainage and improving outdoor irrigation needs. The district’s three multipurpose buildings also achieved LEED Gold certification.
Healthy campus, healthy community
- 46,939 CUBIC FEET OF WATER MANAGED THROUGH LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT
- 100% RESTORATION OF NATIVE PLANT COMMUNITIES
- 9 HERITAGE LIVE OAK TREES SUCCESSFULLY RELOCATED
- 6 / 5 SIX SUSTAINABILITY-FOCUSED CERTIFICATIONS IN FIVE DIFFERENT RATING SYSTEMS
Creating a legacy for generations to come
“This has been a long time in the making, from the Medical School District Master Plan to designing the buildings of the first phase and seeing the campus come to life. There were numerous moving parts and multiple firms on the project team but we are all proud of the contribution we’ve made and are excited about touching the lives of future generations through the school. ”
- AIA Connecticut Design Award, Dell Medical School Health Learning Building
- Austin Business Journal Community Impact Award
- Red-Hot Green Design Trends in Higher-Ed
- New Schools of Thought
- Redesigning hospitals with patient experience in mind
- From 'parking lot central' to architectural oasis: Behind the design of Austin's Dell Medical School
- Collective Learning
- All Is Well: Health Transformation Building
- Medical Education