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Inside Columbia University's Cascading New Medical Building

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The Medical Center’s new Medical and Graduate Education Building opens August 16

In just over two weeks Columbia University Medical Center’s new Medical and Graduate Education building, now known as the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center will welcome its first batch of students to the uniquely designed space on Haven Avenue in Washington Heights between West 171st and West 172nd Streets. On Wednesday afternoon, Curbed got a sneak peak at the as yet-to-open space as part of a press preview organized by the University.

The site of this new education center was once occupied by a six-story townhouse that the university owned. That building was demolished to make way for the medical building, but the relatively narrow lot on which it had to be built proved to be a unique challenge for the architecture team of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Gensler.

So, they decided to build up, and in doing so they relied on a central principle they call the "Study Cascase." In that, an exposed vertical staircase runs the length of the building and interweaves between study and social spaces throughout this 100,000 square foot facility.

"Space matters for structured and informal learning, "Elizabeth Diller, one of the founding partners at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, said in a statement. "To support Columbia’s progressive medical education program, we designed a building that will nurture collaboration."

Some of the key features of this new center include a clinical simulation center with examination rooms and operating theaters, an anatomy quad with computer screens and task lighting where students will get to study and perform dissections on cadavers, several classrooms that can be configured differently based on the students’ needs, outdoor spaces, a ground floor lobby and cafe, and a 275-seat auditorium.

The building is named after the pharmaceutical industry executive and the university’s College of Physicians and Surgeons alumnus, P. Roy Vagelos, and his wife Diana Vagelos, who made an initial lead contribution towards constructing the new building.

"Our new education building will ensure that Columbia continues to train superior doctors and researchers, educated in the latest techniques, as medicine continues to evolve rapidly through the 21st century," Lee Goldman, the dean of the faculties of Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University, said in a statement.

The building will officially open its doors August 16, 2016.