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Look closely at the new addition to the Dean McGee Eye Institute, and you will see nods to the original building. Look even closer, and you’ll see the original 1975 building is still there and has been integrated into the new work.
A competition was held in 2002 to design an addition that would keep the building at 608 Stanton L. Young Blvd. intact. But blending old and new wasn’t as easy as it initially might have sounded. Scott Dedmon, principal with Architectural Design Group Inc., who won the competition, says the old building was constructed in a Brutalist architectural style, which incorporates textured, concrete exteriors and tends to be boxy. He says the structure was pre-cast, bush-hammered concrete — a technique that gave it its signature rough texture.
The building features long, concrete columns and dark rectangle- and squareshaped glass panels, which were duplicated in the windows of the addition.
The challenge for Dedmon was creating something that would blend with the existing building, while at the same time creating an architectural icon on that corner.
“The existing building was really important to them, and we didn’t want to turn our backs to that,” he says. “It actually has some handsome details.”
Dedmon’s solution features a curved atrium made of aluminum panels and blue-tinted glass. The aluminum wraps around to let the old building slip behind for a rather seamless transition.
Front and center to his design, Dedmon says it’s easy to make the association that he literally put sunglasses on the front of the building.
“In creating this icon, it needed to have some reference to vision,” he says. “In the atrium space, you’re looking to the northwest corner, so we wanted to have some sort of symbol of protection from the sun, and that’s what the blue-glass screen does.”
Even when the sun is bright in the west, squinting in the atrium is not necessary. The blue-tinted panels bring in the light without the glare. The wide-open atrium includes a reception desk and glass elevators. The west side of the atrium is the east exterior of the old building. On the lobby level, an entryway was punched into the old level and houses the optical shop. Curved walkways on all the floors connect the old building to the new.
Completed this fall at a cost of $46 million, the 78,000-square-foot addition nearly doubled the size of the DMEI. The five-story expansion also increased the clinical space by 40% to house the 26 ophthalmologists, five optometrists, 10 researchers and staff. DMEI counts about 150,000 annual patient visits.
And for those patients, getting into the building also got easier. In the old building, the entrance was on the eastside basement level.
“Our challenge was how to better resolve that entry process,” Dedmon says.
The main entrance now is accessible by a curved drive off Stanton L. Young that allows visitors to drop a patient at the front door, then wind around to the parking areas on the east and south sides. The parking area along the south of the building also offers an entry point. Along the east side, a curved wall of blue-tinted windows allows natural light to flood the clinical and laboratory spaces. Dedmon’s design ensured the basement labs would enjoy natural lighting as well.
“We paid particular attention to the way those lab spaces were lit,” Dedmon says.
And what did the DMEI leadership have to say? At a dedication ceremony Oct. 3, the design drew praise from DMEI president and CEO Gregory Skuta to David Parke II, executive vice president and CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Dedmon says he is satisfied that he created an aesthetically pleasing project that works with the existing building.
“Although this may look totally different, a lot of the themes in the new building are taken from the original,” he says.
Photos by Shannon Cornman