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Meeting Ground Print
Written by Justin Reedy   
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Meeting Ground
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ImageBringing together the two disparate groups of researchers may also help them reach across disciplinary boundaries and partner with one another. “One tough area in biology is technology development,” says Waterston. “To have bioengineering next door, that could help stimulate us and foster collaboration.”

Where could those collaborations lead in the future? The possibilities are endless. Nanometer-sized machines could treat diseased cells from the inside out, without hurting the rest of a patient’s body. Replacement tissue or organs may soon be grown in a lab, created especially for an individual using his or her genetic profile. Doctors may one day have portable, inexpensive genome sequencing machines in their own offices or clinics, where they could warn patients about their genetic risk for certain diseases.

Rock garden.
A "rock garden" borders the east side of the building.
If such incredible discoveries could get their start anywhere, it would be in the state-of-the-art labs housed in the Foege Building. Inside those walls are some of the most advanced lab spaces in the world. One genome sciences lab has a confocal laser scanning microscope, which allows researchers to watch in real time, at incredible resolution, as living cells replicate and divide.

The 260,000-square-foot facility had a price tag of $150 million, making it the single most expensive building on the UW campus and also one of the largest. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided $60 million for the construction, with additional support coming from the Whitaker Foundation, David C. Auth, the Washington Research Foundation, federal research funding, the government of Singapore and other donors. Surprisingly, no state capital funds were used in the project.

Though the Foege Building was a huge construction project, the architects saved money and sped up the work by using reddish-orange tiles to cover the structure’s north and west sides. These terra cotta tiles were assembled off-site into large panels, which create a rain-screen system when fixed to the building. Based on a centuries-old European home-building concept, the tiles shield the true wall underneath them from the elements. The air cavity between the two layers also insulates the building. The final effect is much more visually appealing as well—the Foege Building shines in comparison to the drab concrete of the nearby Health Sciences Center.

Panels of red-orange terra cotta tiles protect the street side of the building.
Though the design of the Foege Building was tailored to the needs of the scientists and engineers who will call it home, the facility was also created with the entire University community and the public in mind. Inside the building is a “public street” that winds from the far north end, on Pacific Street, to the extreme south end, on Boat Street, allowing someone to walk the entire length of the building in publicly accessible areas.

The south side of the building presents another challenge—how do you take a massive, multi-story structure and extend it to the edge of Boat Street without having it tower over passing pedestrians? The solution—break down the mass of the building before it gets to the bottom of the hill. The main floors of the building stop short of its south end. Only the lower floors, the large auditorium in particular, extend all the way to Boat Street, the light cream stone walls tapering to a dull point just before the sidewalk.

Viewed from Boat Street, the stone structure protrudes from the rest of the building, pointing like a ship’s prow at the waters of Portage Bay. The effect is subtle, though perhaps intentional—the Foege Building acting as a vessel of scientific discovery, guided by scientists and engineers who are eager to chart new courses in biology and medicine, unlocking the secrets to human development and finding cures to debilitating and life-threatening diseases.

Justin Reedy is a graduate of Georgia Tech and worked as a news reporter in the Atlanta area before joining the UW in 2003 as a science writer for the UW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

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