February 2002 Press Release
Rezoning & Research Building Approved
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has received land-use approvals to construct a new laboratory research building and to plan for the long-term future of its hospital complex. The New York City Council voted unanimously to approve the Memorial Sloan-Kettering's applications in the closing days of 2001, ending a year-long public review process.
“The rezoning will allow Memorial Sloan-Kettering to develop much-needed laboratory space; but the greatest benefit of the zoning change may be felt in the decades ahead, since MSKCC will have the ability to plan for the replacement of Memorial Hospital, now 28 years old,” said Douglas A. Warner III, Chairman of the Boards of Overseers and Managers.
Construction of the laboratory building could begin as early as this spring, giving Memorial Sloan-Kettering its first new research building since the Rockefeller Research Laboratories Building opened in 1989. Final designs for the research building are being developed by the architectural team of Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, a firm with special expertise in laboratory design.
“The new building will provide us with the space and the tools we need to expand our faculty and to capitalize on exciting opportunities in cancer research,” said Harold Varmus, Memorial Sloan-Kettering President. Dr. Varmus sought an assessment of the institution's research program shortly after he arrived from the National Institutes of Health in January 2000. That assessment identified programmatic needs in the areas of experimental pathology, cancer genetics, and experimental therapeutics, among others.
The City Council vote followed extensive public hearings on the application and included detailed review by the City Planning Commission. The site for the research building on East 68th Street between First and York Avenues received a partial rezoning, allowing for more space than would have otherwise been permitted. In addition, a full rezoning was approved for the main block where Memorial Hospital and related buildings are located. This decision is significant because construction of the new surgical platform -- which began in 2001 -- exhausted space available under the former R-8 zoning.
“This is, I think, one of the most important actions that this commission ... has taken during my tenure,” said Joseph B. Rose, Chairman of the Planning Commission during the Guiliani administration, in casting his vote. “I think it is a very important investment towards the city’s future.”
The first phase of the construction will consist of a 420-foot-tall building with 16 floors of laboratories in the lot adjacent to St. Catherine of Siena Church. Construction of the second phase -- a seven-story building with less-specialized laboratories -- will commence once researchers in the present Kettering Laboratory are relocated and that structure is demolished. Construction is expected to take six years, according to Edward J. Mahoney, Vice President, Facilities Management.
“The site presents many complexities,” said Mustafa Abadan, design architect for SOM, noting that the first phase will include a rectory for St. Catherine’s Church and will cantilever over the present Kettering Laboratory. “The best solution is an L-shaped laboratory building oriented in a north-south direction with a low-rise structure completing the East 68th Street frontage.”
The building’s exterior will be predominately a mix of glass and masonry, with a masonry base at the lower levels to integrate the design into the surrounding neighborhood. Glass in the laboratory block will be treated with a special silk-screen process -- called fritting -- that will control light that enters the building and the amount it emits. Combined with integrated sun-shading devices in the office areas, this will create an energy-efficient structure that can be operated cost-effectively.
The design, which incorporates ideas from Memorial Sloan-Kettering scientists, emphasizes flexibility and fosters interaction among researchers in different disciplines. Each floor will consist of 18 laboratory modules that will be assigned to investigators based on program size. Parallel equipment and procedure rooms on the same north-south axis will support the laboratories. Glass-enclosed internal staircases will be linked to common areas and offices will connect individual floors. An auditorium and meeting rooms will be part of the second phase of construction, providing the campus with new common amenities.