Building a new medical campus on top of an old army base is akin to building a complete new city on top of an old one. It’s a problem of addition and subtraction; what stays, what goes, where to add the new and how to preserve the old. This takes the vision of a wizard, the sensitivity of a mother, the timing of a musician and the attention to detail of a master quilter. Architect Noel Copeland and planner Jerry Scezney have combined these qualities and more in completing phase one of the campus in just 12 years.
Where old barracks used to stand, courtyards bustle with students and faculty. Green spaces entice the overworked researcher, student or professor into the Colorado sun. The buildings are grouped into neighborhoods—research, hospitals and academic buildings—and architectural design encourages collaboration. Building towers are linked by bridges. Research floors are connected by two-story break rooms, the better to foster serendipitous meetings of the minds.
“We have built connectivity among treatment, teaching and research areas. This is a dynamic and growing community of institutions,” Copeland says. “We are positioned with easy access to the airport and to become a national and international campus community.”
Phase two will enliven the campus with recreation centers, trails and the amenities vibrant campuses need. Just north of Montview Boulevard, the city of Aurora’s partners in economic development are building the research park’s Town Center, a mix of residential and commercial units including banks, fitness centers and restaurants. Around it will rise the Colorado Science and Technology Park, drawing biotechnology companies that will help transfer research to the marketplace.
“Only the educational buildings are funded by the state,” Scezney says. “All others are privately funded by donations.” A generous grant from Phil Anschutz and his foundation enabled the university to speed up construction and accomplish the move from the Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard campus several years ahead of schedule.
University of Colorado Hospital, where all physicians are members of the School of Medicine faculty, and The Children’s Hospital, where 70 percent of physicians are faculty, also moved to the campus so they could closely collaborate on cutting-edge health care research.
The Veterans Administration hospital also is planned. The new life on east Colfax has sparked a renewal across the street, where a developer plans a hotel, restaurants and offices.
“We’ve designed the campus in the context of health and healthy lifestyles, with air, light and green spaces,” Copeland says. “We have taken advantage of all the natural light and with respect and integration into the natural landscape. We have applied sustainable principles.”
The old Fitzsimons main hospital, known as Building 500, has been preserved. It was completed just days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 and was where President Dwight D. Eisenhower recuperated after his first heart attack in 1955.
“We attempted to save as many of the old trees as possible. We even notched a building, Education 1, to save a huge old pine that was probably planted when the first hospital was built in 1918,” Copeland says.
This attention to detail and sensitivity are carried to the inside of the buildings, where light floods the cozy spaces filled with over-stuffed couches and easy chairs. These gathering areas, scattered throughout the buildings, include original public art and courtyards that bring the outside in.
Like a symphony in which each note, instrument and player creates the sense, sensitivity and sensibility of the whole, the old and the new, space and proximity, size and scale of the Anschutz Medical Campus create an integrated masterpiece that will serve patients, researchers and students well into the 21st century.