SOM's MSKCC Research Building in New York approaches the end of its 2nd phase
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill have brought us a plethora of architectural feasts over the years, many of which have been met by mixed reactions from WAN’s readers. From the ‘stilted’ and ‘rigid’ Beijing CBD, to the ‘simply magnificent’ Cathedral of Christ the Light, and of course the ‘iconic’ Burj Khalifa (which was also labelled as ‘way too much’), our users have never held back in relaying their responses to SOM's latest concepts. The firm's most recent offering comes in the form of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) Research Building in New York City; a fritted glass and terracotta construction which is fast approaching the final stages of its second of three phases.
Nestled safely at the edge of this crystalline tower is the modest red-brick church of St. Catherine’s, its rich dusky hues replicated in a central spine which runs the length and height of the entire Research Building which in effect ‘bonds the project to its context’. In direct contrast to the tint of this open-jointed masonry screen, a large proportion of the Research Building is comprised of sheer glass in various levels of transparency. Not only does this protect the volume’s users from the harsh glare of the sun but it also creates a dappled glow as the building is illuminated at night.
During the first phase of the build – completed in September 2006 – 288 ‘wet’ research laboratories were installed along with a comprehensive conference centre including 18 conference rooms of various shapes and sizes. A vivarium was also created consisting of imaging and surgery facilities, alongside a library with four computer carrels. As the world’s oldest and largest private institution dedicated solely to research, clinical care, and education in cancer, MSKCC was in desperate need of larger, more technologically advanced premises from which to further their vital research.
The second construction phase has introduced a number of ‘dry’ research laboratories, offices for the resident physicians, a 350-seat auditorium, and teaching rooms and offices for the Gerstner Sloan-Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Standing at 420ft in height and spread over an immense 692,000 sq ft, the mass of the completed building volume is visible from a significant distance. Whilst this may act as a glowing beacon for the institution itself – and indeed for SOM – the 23 storey tower casts a hefty shadow onto its neighbouring buildings, making its considerable bulk seem all the larger.