San Antonio, Texas
Architect: Kahler Slater
Owner: University of Texas System
Contractor: Vaughn Construction
The Center for Oral Health Care & Research (COHCR) is a freestanding 198,000 square-foot teaching clinic with 400 dental operatories aimed to improve the university’s ability to provide enhanced patient care, attract the best educators, provide innovative education through technology, and conduct clinical research supporting this top-ranked dental education program. The focus for this ground breaking facility is to provide the best oral health care for the region while enhancing user experience through the design of this dynamic and welcoming light-filled clinic.
COHCR is located in San Antonio, Texas north of the existing University of Texas Health Science Center campus. The project is positioned near the University’s medical center and is built as a critical part of the research-based campus that eagerly anticipates growth. Through research, it became paramount that the proximity to the existing campus would bolster synergies between these facilities. In addition, the location offers a powerful visual connection back to the main campus while synergistically providing opportunities to take advantage of views to the distant tree-lined foothills.
The solution is carefully responsive to history, site, climate and program. San Antonio has a rich history of architecture that is responsive to the hot and humid region. This scalable clinical education building is no exception.
Very early in the design, the team understood the limitations of not having large public spaces (i.e. Lobby, Café, etc.), allocated to the total program. Utilizing a courtyard concept defined by two stacked L’s, two floors of specialty clinics and two floors of pre-doctoral clinics, creates a stunning open space that serves as public domain both visually and physically. The interior spaces lining this courtyard were carefully considered to enhance the user experience within the facility. Family members, students, and educators all take advantage of this xeriscape courtyard enjoying the enhanced breezes as they funnel through the aperture above.
The materiality of the building is in keeping with the established neighborhood. The team incorporated corrugated metal panel to intentionally break the stack; first, to reinforce the stacked L’s parti and second, to illustrate that the base and piers are an extension the earth while the delicate metal panels become part of the sky.
The uniquely unpretentious composition, rich with historic reference and integrated materiality, creates an environment meticulously designed for impactful education and positive patient experiences.
Photos: Tre Dunham and Mark Menjivar