MAY 10, 2010

Building to promote high-tech learning — with comfort

The Li Ka Shing Center gives top floor to student lounge as well as featuring space for training with simulation equipment


© Bruce Damonte, 2010 description of photo

The Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge ushers in a new high-tech era in medical education with the nation’s most comprehensive health-care simulation training facilities.

The preview this month of the new Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge begins a new era in the history of the School of Medicine. The striking limestone and glass center is the school’s first new education building in 50 years and is distinctly different from its previous home, in terms of technology, architecture, physical setting and the educational philosophy on which it is built, school leaders say.

“This building was designed to establish a gateway to the school, to be very forward-thinking and to accommodate learning in a way that continues to portray a sense of excellence,” said Niraj Dangoria, the school’s assistant dean for facilities planning and management. “We also wanted to create a landmark that would become the standard-bearer of all other medical buildings to come.”

The soaring five-level, 120,000-foot structure brings together all the elements involved in education at the school. It is expected to dramatically change the way that students and doctors are trained through the use of new interactive, experiential and team-based learning technologies, all within a flexible environment where learners of various backgrounds can mingle and exchange ideas, said Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the medical school.

“I believe this building is truly transformative, that it will recalibrate the way medical education is conducted and delivered and will be enormously attractive to our community locally, nationally and globally,” said Pizzo.

Located on the site of the former Fairchild Auditorium, the LKSC faces Campus Drive and is prominently placed between the Beckman Center and the Fairchild Building. It offers a sweeping, welcoming facade, with a red-trimmed roof that echoes the classic 19th-century architecture of the university’s main quadrangle. While the medical school’s main building had previously been nested inside the hospital complex, the LKSC creates the first recognizable front door for the school.

It looks south beyond its park-like front lawn to the main campus, connecting via a palm-tree-lined path, known as the Foundations Walk, to the Serra Mall. And to the north, it meets up with its two clinical partners, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. An east-west path, known as Discovery Walk, connects it to the now-being-constructed Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Building on one side and the sciences and biology quad on the other side of Campus Drive.

It is positioned literally at the crossroads of the school, “setting in motion the next 50 years of development” of the future medical school buildings, which are expected to imitate its look and feel, Dangoria said.

Stanford EdTechdescription of photo

The student lounge on the top floor offers space to relax, as well as an exercise room and quiet rooms for studying.

The building has been more than a decade in the making, with roots that go back to 1999, when the university’s Board of Trustees approved a plan to upgrade the school’s facilities. That project, known as GALE (for the existing Grant, Alway, Lane and Edwards buildings that comprised the medical school) was designed to satisfy national medical school accreditation authorities, who had been critical of the school’s inadequate educational facilities.

But within days of being hired as the new dean in 2001, Pizzo decided to scrap the GALE plan, as it became clear that neither faculty nor students were happy with the project, which sought to satisfy too many competing needs at once.

The new LKSC then came to life, winning conceptual approval from the university trustees in 2005. The facility will replace classrooms, library space and offices that had been in the still-standing GALE complex, which now will be adapted for research and other uses.

Beginning with the next academic year, the LKSC will serve as the hub for all of the school’s educational activities, providing advanced technological opportunities for learners at all levels. Medical students, residents, practicing physicians and other health-care professionals all can take advantage of the greatly expanded Hon Mai and Joseph Goodman Center for Immersive and Simulation-based Learning, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the country, which continues to operate its smaller-scale facilities in Stanford Hospital. Participants can hone their clinical skills using mannequins that look, act and respond like human beings or try their hand in a simulated operating room, emergency room, intensive care unit or other clinical setting.

Stanford EdTechdescription of photo

A conference center can be divided into three rooms or used as a grand space with 350 seats that pull out from the walls.

A virtual theatre also will give students the chance to experience life-sized, 3-D images of the human body, while a skills training suite will house both mechanical and virtual reality trainers to mimic and teach specific procedures and skills.

The building also has classic-looking classrooms and both large and small meeting spaces, with an added bonus: Every part of the building is equipped with the ability to capture activities on video. Indeed, the building has more technology than anywhere else on campus, with $9 million worth of audiovisual equipment and a high-end wiring system, Dangoria said.

“The classrooms look like classrooms and the conference center looks like a conference center, but if you peel back the architecture, everywhere is a sound stage,” said Chris Shay, the school’s manager of capital projects. “All of the activities can be captured and sent to the conference center or broadcast instantaneously on the web.”

That means, for instance, that practitioners demonstrating a procedure in the simulation center can be simultaneously recorded on video for viewing by hundreds of participants in the second-floor conference center, he said.

The school’s video capability has multiple benefits for students, said Moria Chambers, a graduate student in microbiology and immunology and president of BioMASS, the graduate student organization. Medical students can review recorded videos of their clinical efforts, while graduate students will be able to review practice tapes of a thesis defense or of an upcoming presentation at a scientific meeting, she said.

Shay said the building also is designed for multiple purposes to maximize its flexibility. For instance, the second-floor conference center can accommodate some 350 people in a variety of seating arrangements. The room can be set up as a tiered lecture hall with stadium-style seating, be used as a full banquet facility with round tables or be configured in a more standard conference style with five-foot tables. On the same floor, the classrooms serve a second role as breakout spaces for the conference center, while general circulation areas offer informal gathering spots before a planned function in the conference room, he said.

Stanford EdTechdescription of photo

Classrooms are wired to capture activities on video, which can then be easily transmitted through the building or across the world.

Putting students first

But the building first and foremost is designed for students, who get the premier real estate, Shay said.

In fact, Dean Pizzo chose to situate his own suite of offices on a lower floor so that students could take advantage of the building’s most attractive spaces and views. The second- and third-floor classrooms and the fourth-floor Berg Student Commons claim the best views of the foothills. In addition, the student commons area is dedicated strictly for student study, relaxation and socializing. This loft-like area houses a kitchenette and lounge with cushy chairs, an entertainment area with a giant screen, small rooms for study or quiet reflection, nap pods and a fully equipped fitness center with extraordinary views of the hills. Students can read, study or simply relax on a balcony that overlooks the green expanse and the foothills beyond.

Students are particularly enthusiastic about this dedicated space for them, Chambers said. “It is beautiful, with tables lining the windows where you can sit and study,” she said. In general, she believes the building will offer greater opportunities for students to mix and meet, especially graduate students who tend to be departmentally based. “I think LKSC will be great in promoting intermingling between MDs and PhDs, as well as PhDs from different departments,” she said.

In addition to student-related services, the building also houses the administrative offices of the dean, as well as an Alumni Resource Center and an elegant boardroom for leadership meetings of the school, hospital, university and community. All of these units moved into the new facilities in March.

Lane Library will have a presence throughout the facility. Its digital library of knowledge will be available throughout the LKSC via public computers on first, second and third floors, and from computers in the Berg Student Commons on the fourth floor, said Heidi Heilemann, the library director. And the digital library will be accessible everywhere via mobile devices over wireless.

The student commons also will be home to Lane’s bookless branch, a knowledge center featuring a virtual service desk, where librarian liaisons will provide specialized consultations, a clinical work room to access the electronic health record systems for both hospitals, a project rehearsal room, a technology-free retreat space, a reading room, eight new collaborative study rooms and an ample variety of individual study spaces.

Todd Quam/Digital Sky Aerial Imaging description of photo

The Li Ka Shing Center’s white rooftop deflects heat, thus reducing energy use. It is located between the Beckman (left) and Fairchild (right) buildings.

Designed to be green

The LKSC was designed with sustainability in mind and meets the standards for silver LEED status, Dangoria said. Its white roof with red trim and high-quality glass are designed to deflect heat, thus reducing energy use. Cooling will come from below in the large lecture halls, another energy-saving feature, Shay said. Automatic sensors will turn off lights when rooms are not in use, while reclaimed water will be used in the building, where appropriate. The café and classrooms will compost material. The building also makes use of some recycled materials, such as rubber floors designed from recycled tires. Secure bicycle parking will be provided to encourage bicycle transportation to the building.

The building was designed by the international architecture firm, NBBJ, whose San Francisco office has designed a number of California’s leading learning and research facilities over the last 20 years. These include UC-San Diego’s California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and a state of-the-art simulation center at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. The general contractor for the building is Whiting Turner.

The LKSC opens to students on May 12, when faculty and staff are also invited to an open house for the facility. The building, including its downstairs café and bookstore, will be fully functioning in time for the first official day of school on Aug. 18. The LKSC will be officially dedicated in late September, when Li Ka-shing, its leading benefactor and namesake, will travel to Stanford from his home in Hong Kong for the event. Li, the chair of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., has pledged one-third of his assets to the Li Ka Shing Foundation, which, together with his other charitable organizations, has provided grants, scholarships and commitments of more than $1.1 billion to projects worldwide, including its support for the new education center at the medical school.

The total cost of the LKSC building is $90.2 million, which has been financed through private philanthropy, debt and school resources.

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

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