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Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center 

Columbia University Medical Center 

The Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center is a 107,000-sf, 15-story state-of-the-art medical education facility that links students and teachers, function and experience in an interactive, interdisciplinary learning environment, all while creating a new identity and focal point for Columbia University Medical Center’s Washington Heights campus. It aspires to be an iconic facility that heralds a new era in modern medical and graduate education, attracting the world’s top medical students in the process. LERA led the structural design of the project, in addition to performing special inspections.

Envisioned as a vertical campus of stacked neighborhoods, the building’s main feature is the southern-facing “Study Cascade,” containing vertically interconnected study and social spaces that creatively blend function and experience. The façade is a highly articulated all-glass system that is crucial to the building’s expression. In contrast, the northern half of the building is largely uniform floor-to-floor, and is organized for classrooms and administrative space, in addition to a mid-tower mechanical space that supports Anatomy Labs.

The building’s structural design achieves efficiency by embracing the layout of the stacked neighborhoods. The structural system of the Cascade leverages the natural interconnections that come from the unique arrangement of the program spaces of the vertical campus. Single-story walls and ramps connect and stiffen the cantilevered slabs, allowing for savings in the slabs’ post-tensioning, rebar and concrete quantities.

The main structural design challenge was to find vertical load paths through the Study Cascade while respecting the varied spatial planning of the stacked, 2- to 3-story atrium-like clusters of diversified social spaces. To minimize the structure’s impact on these spaces, the cascade floors are supported by a pair of inclined composite concrete columns that are architecturally exposed and cast with high-strength self-consolidating concrete (10 ksi). These two exposed columns slope from the foundation level up to the 8th Floor, directing loads around a column-free auditorium at the base of the Cascade. The thrusts that result from the changes in direction of the sloping columns are resisted by in-floor trusses constructed with post-tensioning and high-strength rebar.

Completed in 2016, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center stands as a nearly identical realization of the architects’ vision—rarely does a completed building so accurately reflect its original renderings.

Publication: High-Performance Concrete Flat-Plate Floor System, Concrete International, January 2022



New York, NY  



Columbia University 



Lead Designer - Diller Scofidio + Renfro 

Executive Architect - Gensler



Diamond Award - Structural Systems, 2018

American Council of Engineering Companies New York (ACEC NY) Engineering Excellence Awards


Best in Competition, 2017

Architecture Honor Award, 2017

American Insitute of Architects (AIA) New York Design Awards


Visionary Architecture Award, 2017

Society of American Registered Architects New York (SARA NY)


MASterworks Award - Best New Building, 2017

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MASNYC)


Award of Merit - Higher Education/Research, 2017

Engineering News-Record (ENR) New York Best Projects 2017


Award of Merit - Buildings Category, 2017

Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI) Awards


Second Place: Mid-Rise Buildings, 2017

American Concrete Institute (ACI) Excellence in Concrete Construction Awards


Finalist - Excellence in Institutional

Development, 2017

Urban Land Institute (ULI) New York


Best of Design Award - Facade, 2016

Architect's Newspaper (AN) 2016 Best of Design Awards


Finalist - Architecture + Engineering, 2016

Finalist - Unbuilt Institutional, 2016

Architizer A+ Awards


Excellence in Structural Engineering Award, 2015

National Council of Structural Engineers Association (NCSEA)


Excellence in Structural Engineering Award, 2015

Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY)


Award for Innovative Design, 2015

American Concrete Institute (ACI) Strategic Development Council


53rd Annual Roger H. Corbetta Award, 2014

Concrete Industry Board (CIB)

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