Health Sciences Innovation Building

Architecture firm: CO Architects, Swaim Associates

Owner: University of Arizona  

Location: Tucson, Ariz.

Category: Merit

Project site: Previously developed

Building program type(s): Education - college/university (campus-level)

As the health care industry continues to evolve into a multidisciplinary and technology-enabled field, silos around practice are being removed and care teams are transitioning to a more interprofessional model. The groundbreaking Health Sciences Innovation Building at the University of Arizona supports this evolution and a curriculum that eschews established norms to reflect modern health care delivery.

Across many campuses, the schools for nursing, pharmacy, medicine, and public health operate independently and remain nearly invisible to the broader university community and the outside world. This new facility unites these  schools in order to advance interdisciplinary training and collegiality. The 230,000-square-foot building encourages public and private health professions, engineering, and information systems to participate in research endeavors that seek to improve health care outcomes throughout the state and well beyond.

To connect the LEED Gold-certified building with the wider campus’ masonry brick aesthetic, the team employed terracotta as a dynamic alternative that can be extruded and manipulated. Its form takes its cues from the native saguaro cactus in its shading, while the twisting facade shapes a dynamic interplay of light and shadow that lends a sense of movement.

Inside, a series of flexible and adaptable spaces promote wellness and engagement among the university’s diverse students, staff, faculty, and industry partners. The array of program spaces distributed across the building vary in scale but are linked by stairs that prompt activity and interaction. In addition, the stairs form a continuous path that winds through the building, surrounded by open lounges and study spaces on each floor.

The stairs that unite the various spaces of this building symbolize the unity of the varied populations who share it.” – Jury comment

To achieve the university’s desired level of flexibility, the team eliminated vertical building infrastructure from the nine-story steel-framed loft, establishing a 90-foot-wide, column-free space that spans the length of the building on all floors. Doing so created volume for the cutting-edge health sciences education environments that are augmented by technology-enriched, team-based learning spaces that suit interprofessional learning studios.

One such space is the building’s Simulation Deck, which reconceptualizes health care environments in a black box theater inspired by Hollywood sound stages. The space is the heart of the Arizona Simulation and Technology and Education Center, the most advanced simulation program in the country and an important training center for the military and other professionals.

Since opening, the Health Sciences Innovation Building has transformed health sciences through visibility and community accessibility. Its ground-floor forum space has been continuously occupied by members of the university community who attend lectures, performances, and other events.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2019

Gross conditioned floor area: 247,000 sq. ft.

Project team

Design Architect: CO Architects

Architect of Record: CO Architects

Associate Architect: Swaim Associates

Interior Designer: CO Architects

Engineer - MEP: Affiliated Engineers, Inc

Engineer - Structural: John A. Martin & Associates

Engineer - Civil: Environmental Engineering Consultants (EEC)

Landscape Architect: Wheat Design Group

Lighting: KGM Architectural Lighting

Acoustical: NV5

IT/AV/Security: NV5

Cost Estimator: Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB)

General Contractor: Kitchell


Lori Cappucio, AIA (Chair), SmithGroup, Washington, DC

Omar Bailey, AIA, Shepley Finch, Phoenix

Vince Gonzales, AIA, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle

Kandis Larsen, AIA, Integrus + YGH, Spokane, Wash.

Sindu Meier, AIA, William Rawn Associates, Milton, Mass.

Image credits

Health Sciences Innovation Building-03

Timmerman Photography Inc.

Health Sciences Innovation Building-04

Timmerman Photography Inc.

Health Sciences Innovation Building-05

Timmerman Photography Inc.

Health Sciences Innovation Building-06

Timmerman Photography Inc.

Health Sciences Innovation Building-07

Timmerman Photography Inc.