David Rockefeller River Campus in Manhattan. Courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects PC (left) and Lorenzo Sanjuan / Thornton Tomasetti (right).

Rockefeller University, Stavros Niarchos Foundation – David Rockefeller River Campus



Rockefeller University is a leader in biomedical research and the university is expanding its available space by building a new three-story building on campus with two levels of laboratories. The 180,000-square-foot facility stretches almost three and a half city blocks, providing researchers with space to work and connect on the same floor and the resources to pursue their projects. This layout encourages collaboration across disciplines and allows for maximum flexibility in rearranging the laboratory spaces. Two one-story glass pavilions stand on top of the laboratories and provide office and cafeteria space. The low-lying building spans FDR Drive and preserves the views of the campus and those for the university’s neighbors.

Thornton Tomasetti is providing structural design services for this laboratory facility. Two-story “Y” columns support the building along the east side of FDR Drive. The east side columns are spaced at 96 feet on center and are founded on pile caps with multiple mini piles. The west side columns are spaced at 48 feet on center and rest on pile caps to facilitate construction. The primary superstructure is made of high-strength plate girders. The building’s second level spans 92 feet over the FDR Drive and level one is suspended below, with 5-foot-6-inch deep, long-span plate girders, which also support the green roof on the third level.

Constructing this building over FDR Drive remains a challenge. Initial construction will take place in New Jersey, de-constructed into modules (92- feet-by-48-feet-by-three-stories), and transported to the site via barge. Once the structure has been built out over the highway, the remaining work will take place on campus. Closures to FDR Drive will take place only at night.

Blast resistance and thermal movement are additional challenges for this unique building.

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