Safdie Architects oriented the Albert Einstein Education and Research Center (AEERC) in Sao Paolo, Brazil, around an indoor forest. They hope to inspire the next generation of doctors to orient their mindset around wellness.

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The exterior of a building with a glass roof

The AEERC project is meant to reflect Einstein’s interdisciplinary approach to education, research and healthcare delivery. The building is essentially a giant greenhouse surrounded by office space, classrooms, an auditorium, laboratories and simulation facilities meant to replicate exam rooms, clinics and operating rooms for training.

Related: LEED-Platinum Knight Cancer Research Building champions “team science”

An outside walking area featuring a pond

Meanwhile, the interior of the building is covered with a 3,800-square-meters glass roof shaped into three integrated structural domes. This skylight vaults 86 meters with minimum structural steel weight. The roof is made of a layered system that filters sunlight, mitigates heat transfer and absorbs sound. The outer skylight layer is made of up 1,854 ultra-transparent glass panels coated in triple silver solar protection to reduce heat gain. It is also printed with a pattern of translucent ceramic dots to shade sunlight.

A common area underneath a glass roof

To achieve that, the project consulted an acoustic engineer and a horticulturist for the design of the space and plants included under the dome. The unique glass used for the dome also has minimal reflectivity to avoid disruptive exterior reflections.

An indoor garden area in the middle of multiple floors of a research facility

Furthermore, the inner layer of the roof is a transparent membrane. It’s micro-perforated to absorb noise. Printed on it is a custom pattern of translucent dots that provide shading, but also glow in the light. The dots are concentrated in the east and west ends of the roof to shade low-angle sun, while the central dome is clear to let full sunlight reach the dense plantings in the center of the garden. The dots are also for a pleasant aesthetic effect of the feeling of being underneath a tree canopy.

A glass membrane roof exposing the multiple floors

The atrium garden forms the heart of the collaboration and learning spaces in the complex. An environmental control system keeps the space at optimal temperatures. Thereby, delivering cooling to the atrium at low levels as required and at low velocity to control humidity, minimize energy usage and make the space as comfortable as possible. The humidity has to be controlled for plant and human health in the building, as well as to fit strict laboratory environmental requirements. Fluid dynamic computer simulations were used to model the stratification of heat in the space and to simulate the evacuation of smoke in case of a fire.

A bamboo forest with stone pathways

From there, the garden spills out toward the street level with a bamboo grove on the north and a palm grove on the south. A large Jatoba tree, a protected native species, was preserved during construction and relocated near the main entry. Street-side, moat-like light wells are planted with hanging vines, which draws daylight down into classrooms and lab space below street level. Permeable pavers were used on driveways and sidewalks to absorb rainfall and minimize stormwater runoff.

The outside of a educational facility featuring a grove of trees lining a sidewalk

Additionally, locally-sourced woods, including Jequitiba and Jatoba wood, were used for the library. Cedro Rosso wood was used to construct the auditorium. Imbuia wood was used on the elevator core cladding and for custom-made doors. Natural rubber flooring is used through the classrooms and labs in different colors according to floor, which is designed to help orient the visitor to which floor they are on. Furniture was also locally sourced from Brazilian artisans and designed to be modular and flexible for a variety of future uses.

+ Safdie Architects

Photography by Timothy Hursley and Pedro Kok