Baylor College of Medicine Gross Anatomy Lab
The renovation of the Baylor College of Medicine Gross Anatomy and Morgue included a new space for the Microsurgical and Endoscopic Center for Clinical Applications Laboratory. This 14,000-square-foot project involved phased demolition and renovation of existing gross anatomy classrooms and laboratories, morgue, cadaver storage and chemical storage facilities. The gross anatomy labs were redesigned to perform as highly flexible spaces to accommodate lecture-style desk seating, gross anatomy dissection, prosection instruction and testing.
The Gross Anatomy Lab includes teaching and research spaces, including gross anatomy teaching labs. There are eight classrooms, two of which are used for teaching microsurgical and brain/neuroscience. These flexible classrooms are also used for gross anatomy teaching space. Demonstrations and lectures are broadcast from the microsurgery labs to lecture halls on the upper floors of the building as well as to each workstation within the labs. Baylor College of Medicine has plans to broadcast to remote locations in the near future.
Relocating the chemical storage facility (while addressing code-compliance issues) was one of the key drivers for the project; the design team pulled it away from the lab proper and helped make it a shared facility. There were a number of complications that had to be addressed, while at the same time accommodating the teaching and construction completion schedules. The Gross Anatomy Lab spaces are located in the basement level of the facility, and overhead space constraints were a major factor in determining HVAC systems and ceiling heights. Due to the basement level location, the egress requirements were complex. The program spaces also cross existing building separation walls, resulting in intricate fire barrier requirements.
A new HVAC system was designed to provide more efficient air exchanges throughout the lab. A 1970s electrical bus was uncovered above the existing ceilings, and serious measures were required to protect the integrity of the building firewalls and to protect the electrical bus. The finishes in the labs were updated to include sheet flooring to accommodate the various chemicals and liquids in the lab areas. In order to better handle frozen and fresh cadavers, a large walk-in cooler and freezer were included in the renovation. A stainless steel enclosure wall was designed to wrap around the cadaver racks for concealment and to control air circulation; however the enclosure was not built due to budget limitations.
The project was driven primarily by the need to enhance safety (minimize hazards in the teaching environment, address chemical quantities in morgue), improve indoor environmental quality (odors, noise, hygiene in classrooms), and increase instructional capability (multiple teaching modes, varying classroom densities, various technologies). Aesthetics were necessarily secondary to these functional needs.
However, with input from the client, we developed a research-informed product/systems performance matrix to systematically evaluate and compare materials and finishes as a basis for selecting appropriate materials – in terms of air quality, ergonomics, durability, maintenance, flexibility, constructability, first and life cycle cost. Typically, these materials and finishes have limited options (color, texture, etc.). Additionally, the rooms had to accommodate multiple functions. This required that literally every vertical and horizontal square inch be carefully planned. Because walls are used for projection, it was important to use light or neutral colors. Similarly, light colors made it easier to locate (and therefore clean up) spills, which are common in this type of setting. Bright and highly contrasting colors can also add visual “noise” to spaces, particularly high density classrooms that are inherently noisy; visual noise can actually detract from the teaching experience and exacerbate conditions.
We therefore chose to design the spaces as backdrops to the activities and equipment they contained, using a muted, neutral color palette. The highly technical equipment formed the aesthetic of the rooms. Rooms had been previously “over lit” to meet the lighting needs of the space; the new light fixtures provide better lighting and save energy. Floors were originally carpeted, creating a number of hygienic problems. Rubber flooring was chosen to replace the carpet, maintaining the ergonomic and sound-dampening qualities of carpet, but significantly improving hygiene, maintenance, and overall aesthetics.
Page provided a full range of architecture and engineering services, including designing mobile microsurgery stations with projector systems.