Michigan State University Secchia Center for Medical Education

Secchia Center for Medical Education

Michigan State University

Grand Rapids, Michigan

170,000 gsf

$48 million

LEED Gold Certified

Ellenzweig provided programming, laboratory and education-facilities planning and design, and architectural design for this new seven-story teaching facility for Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. The building, which achieved LEED Gold certification, includes teaching labs, research labs, classrooms, library, clinical skills center, simulation center, anatomy labs, virtual microscopy labs, lab support, meeting rooms, lounges, student areas, and offices. The variety of teaching venues includes large and mid-size lecture halls, flexible classrooms, and small-group-learning seminar rooms.
The Secchia Center is located in downtown Grand Rapids within the Michigan Street Development, a commercial medical community; Spectrum Health and the Van Andel Institute are across the street.
The building is constructed atop an existing five-story parking garage. A significant challenge was designing a new facility and developing a cladding system for the original structure that, when constructed, results in a unified building. A cast stone, of the same light color as the adjacent building, was selected to clad the building and the garage. Metal fins, painted the same color as the stone, fulfill the dual roles of façade accents and sunshades. The roof canopy is an element that further distinguishes the building on its highly visible site overlooking the urban landscape and the Grand River.
As stated by President Lou Anna K. Simon, the mission for the Secchia Center is to “bring to life a one-of-a-kind model for medical education and research in the 21st century. This new approach blends key elements of a classical medical education center with MSU’s traditional strength in community-based medical education.” The University regards the project as and opportunity to advance the power of genomic medicine, and significantly advance MSU’s activity in research, both in East Lansing and Grand Rapids.
Ellenzweig served as Design Architect and Laboratory/Educational Facilities Planner, working in association with URS, Architect of Record.The building is organized into three principal areas: a rectangular block providing flexible space for labs and lab support functions, an office area shaped into a gentle curve on the principal entry side, and a slightly separate two-story volume housing a conference room and lounge. The continuous lab zone provides an efficient service distribution system, permits flexibility in ongoing lab re-allocations, and allows researchers from different disciplines to work in close proximity. The lab support zone, directly adjacent to the lab areas, provides easy access to support functions such as autoclaves, microscopy rooms, and cold rooms. Offices for P.I.’s, post-docs, and grad students are grouped together across from the labs, encouraging researcher interaction while providing good proximity to lab areas.


The exterior is clad in white-cedar siding and white curtainwall, with zinc panels on penthouse walls. The cedar siding emulates a prominent material of the local Cape Cod context, rendered in a more contemporary idiom, and is intended to weather to a soft gray to match some of the adjacent structures on the Institution’s Quissett Campus.


The building design has been guided by green building principles, including preservation of open space, use of heat recovery, use of both wet and dry scrubbers for exhaust systems, sunshades for solar control, use of renewable resources, and many other features.


Ellenzweig served as Architect of Record, Design Architect, and Laboratory Planner for the building, which was part of an ensemble project that included the Marine Research Building and an expansion/renovation of the Central Energy Plant.