Shantou University Medical College
Shantou, China
Project 2009–2014, realization 2014–2016

The new SUMC building aims to provide a central building for Shantou University Medical College to accommodate a multiplicity of medical education facilities for currently 2600 students. The current college is split in two locations across the city. The original compound is located in the dense old city of Shantou with little opportunity for expansion and growth. In the past years, additional spaces have been made available temporarily on the Shantou University campus 12km outside of the city, to cope with a fast growing number of students and increasing demand for teaching facilities. 


Following a vision to promote interdisciplinary exchange by combining the university and the medical college in one campus and based on a master plan developed by Herzog & de Meuron in 2003, the client has chosen a site at the main campus gate to realize the new SUMC building. Herzog & de Meuron were commissioned in 2009 with the design.    


Shantou is a subtropical harbor city with 5.5 million inhabitants in the Guangdong Province in southern China and one of five Special Economic Administration Zones in China established in 1980 to stimulate economic growth and overseas trade. Starting from the same time, Shantou has also set out to promote higher education with a number of academic institutions for education and research, in particular for medical education. The Shantou University campus, established in the 1980s, is embedded into a gentle valley, surrounded by lush hills on three sides and opening on the south side to the road leading to the newly opened airport.

Our starting point is to concentrate the academic facilities of SUMC, such as classroom, laboratory, clinical skill training center and offices into one building to create programmatic density. The facilities are then arranged according to their functional adjacencies to form a ring-shaped section, around a very large open central space called the Podium, which extends the entire length of the building of 100m and connects all program uses and levels. The Podium is oriented to the main campus gate on the east side and to the landscape on the west  


Instead of following the main grid of the campus, the building is set to solar north-south orientation with the long elevations facing north and south, and the short elevations facing east and west. This orientation and the public plaza in front of the building create a strong visual presence of the building within the campus. More importantly, this orientation allows the building mass to block the sun and the noise from the airport road adjacent to the building. The passive solar performance is further enhanced by introducing sun shades in concrete and the white façade finish.   


The main entrance to the building is through a grand stair located on the east side to face the main campus gate. This grand stair brings teachers, students and visitors to the Podium on the third floor and therefore to the “heart” of the SUMC building, from where other floors can be accessed with four stair cores located at the corners of the building. 


The new SUMC building offers a variety of interior and exterior spaces. The Podium is covered and sheltered from direct sun and rain, but open to natural light and air. This dynamic platform can be used in many different ways: it connects different activities, gathers large groups for formal and informal events, and acts as the heart of the medical college as well as the entire campus. A series of shifting floors creates protective overhangs and open balconies. The need for private facilities with controlled light and climate conditions is balanced by the provision of public areas that are naturally lit and ventilated, such as staircases and corridors. Horizontal stretches of glazing offer panoramas to the surrounding landscape as well as views back into the teaching facilities themselves.


Three public terraces on the north and south side of the building provide additional break-out space between the distinct program clusters, promote exchange as well as interaction between these uses, and open the view to the lush sub-tropical landscape of the campus.


The most public and largest program is located on the ground floor below the Podium: a lecture theatre seating 300 and three auditoria are designed to be visually and physically accessible from inside and outside the building, while a multi-disciplinary exhibition space combines and transforms the typical "display-per-discipline" rooms into a new museum of life sciences. Climate controlled research laboratories are stacked on the south side of the building to buffer noise from the adjacent road, while small scale classrooms and offices which require a quieter atmosphere are placed on the north side to face the campus. A cluster of clinic-based training spaces, where students’ medical education is completed, bridges the laboratory and teaching areas at the top of the building, completing the functional and programmatic loop.

Herzog & de Meuron, 2016