Major construction is few and far between these days, but a grand and exhilarating new building at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical Center is a reminder that even in a sluggish economy, there’s a place for strong architecture. At 12th and East Marshall streets, the recently dedicated James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Medical Education Center is a behemoth at 12 stories and 200,000 square feet. But Pei Freed Cobb Architects, designers of the pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, have delivered a structure that appears lighter than air. Expanses of glass and light-hued concrete have been combined brilliantly to create the first significant piece of architecture on campus since the art deco West Hospital was completed in 1940. Classrooms, simulation labs and research areas all open onto corridors filled with natural light and offering dramatic views of downtown.
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