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Hello Nurse!
FXFOWLE and CO Architects unveil their design of Columbia University's new School of Nursing.
Courtesy CO|FOWLE

CO|FXFOWLE, a collaboration between New York City–based firm FXFOWLE and Los Angeles–based CO Architects, has just unveiled its design for a new nursing school at the Columbia University Medical School campus. Slated to begin construction in 2014, the seven-story building has been designed to provide a space that facilitates student interactions and maintain an open face to the neighboring community.

“Columbia University has long been an integral part of New York City’s institutional fabric,” said CO|FXFOWLE senior associate Michael Syracuse. “We are excited to work closely with the University’s School of Nursing, in creating a new facility that will both honor its rich heritage while providing a collaborative, interactive, and forward-thinking environment for faculty and students.”


CO|FXFOWLE won the project in an invited competition. The competition brief requested a three-story building of 65,000 square feet for the site. CO|FXFOWLE, however, proposed a taller, skinnier building that would leave half the site for future development, while resulting in a lower-cost, more efficient construction. The project will seek LEED Silver certification.

The soaring lobby and circulation spaces are clad in transparent glass, offering passersby clear views in to a set of scissoring, chartreuse-colored staircases that extend upward to the seventh floor, where there is a green-roofed terrace. The terrace flows into a penthouse that contains a student lounge and an informal event space.

The architects allocated faculty offices, conference rooms, and breakout spaces to the building’s two street faces, north and east. These elevations are clad in a fritted glass curtain wall that allows daylight penetration while providing privacy. The core houses simulation labs, research centers, and flexible office space for PhD candidates and visiting faculty.


The simulation labs are the most innovative part of the project, featuring the latest in medical simulation technology. There are labs to prepare nurses for different sorts of situations they will encounter on the job, including large multi-bed labs, multifunction ICU/ED/Acute care rooms, an operating room, and mock exam rooms for actor patients. Some labs feature simulation mannequins operated from adjacent control/observation rooms. There are also debriefing areas, where students will view videos of their performance in the simulation labs and receive critiques from their peers and professors. CO|FXFOWLE worked with the School of Nursing faculty, staff, and students through a series of workshops to understand their functional and spatial requirements, course schedules, and projected growth in order to right-size the simulation areas.

The design also seeks to impart the importance of environment in keeping people healthy. The architects are giving special attention to ensuring indoor air quality, optimizing daylight, selecting non-toxic materials, conserving energy and water, encouraging the use of stairs, and providing connections to the green roof.

Aaron Seward