KCU’s Progressive New Building Provides Next-Generation Osteopathic Medical Education

CO Architects’ Design Offers Flexible, High-Tech Spaces for Simulation Training and Active Learning


CO Architects’ design for the Center for Medical Education Innovation at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences features a glass-enclosed pavilion with interior spaces intended for multiple uses. Renderings: CO Architects. Click here for high-resolution images.

KANSAS CITY, MO: The Center for Medical Education Innovation (CMEI) recently broke ground at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) to bolster the ever-evolving future of osteopathic medical education by using innovative simulation technology. Designed by CO Architects, in collaboration with Helix Architecture + Design, the new, four-story, 56,000-square-foot facility provides flexible, state-of-the-art learning environments to offer students advanced education, while positioning the university as a progressive leader in the field. Construction is scheduled for completion in 2020.

“Medical education is constantly advancing, making it imperative to design spaces that can flex and adapt to future advancements in medical curriculum, pedagogy, technology, and care models,” said Jonathan Kanda, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal and Medical Education Specialist at Los Angeles-based CO Architects. “The building has been designed to be forward looking and capable of supporting multiple functions and various scaled activities in a single space.”

Located on an undeveloped greenspace at the west edge of KCU’s campus, CMEI takes advantage of the sloping site to maintain the scale of the campus by lowering one floor into the ground, in effect creating a three-story building visible from the lower quad, while accommodating four floors of space. The building uses modern, low-maintenance materials, such as glass, brick, wood, and precast concrete, to evoke the heritage of KCU’s brick-clad campus. The glass curtain wall creates a visually open pavilion, highlighting its learning activities—a simulation deck, clinical skills suite, osteopathic manipulative medicine lab, and multi-functional forum—during the day, and transforming into a subtle, illuminated beacon on campus at night.

In order to fulfill the university’s requirement for flexibility, many spaces in the building are intended for multiple uses. Upon entering, users encounter a connective, multi-level, multi-functional lobby with stadium seating that doubles as a public forum to provide waiting, colloquia, study, and briefing functions. The raked, glazed two-story lobby and third-floor terrace appear to hover over the ground plane to offer a panoramic view of downtown Kansas City, thereby visually connecting the university with the city to emphasize KCU’s mission of improving the well-being of the larger community. The pavilion is wrapped with a single-folding plane gesture, which begins at the articulated lobby floor, bends upward to form the north wall, and then crests to create a dramatically extended roof to help shade the south-facing glass elevation.

The simulation suite features eight simulation rooms connected to an innovative and adaptable black-box stage set, or sim deck, to accommodate small-scale scenarios, as well as large trauma events. The walls of the rooms fully open to the sim deck to offer new teaching capabilities and easy access between spaces. The ceiling utilizes a steel theater grid that allows light and equipment to be hung and freely arranged. A 40-foot-wide opening enables the space to expand to the adjacent campus quad for large-scale simulations using mobile monitoring and control technologies.

The standardized patient lounge has been re-interpreted from a single-use, historically underutilized space into a flexible, multi-functional destination. Operable exam room walls enable the lounge to transform into a clinical skills suite, classroom setting, or after-hours student study center.

In addition to Kanda, the CO Architects design team includes: Arnold Swanborn, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal, Design Director; Ben Bye, Associate, Designer; Sona Aroush, Associate, Interior Designer; and Todd Spangler, RA.

CO Architects is design architect and Helix Architecture + Design is executive architect; both firms collaborated on the interior design. Other project affiliates include: JE Dunn Construction Group (general contractor), Henderson Engineers (MEP engineer/lighting), Walter P Moore (structural/civil engineer), Confluence (landscape), and The Sextant Group (AV/IT/security/acoustical).

About CO Architects
Los Angeles-based CO Architects is nationally recognized for architectural planning, programming, and design in the higher education, science and technology, and healthcare sectors, and works with leading institutions from coast to coast. CO Architects’ specialized expertise includes transformative schools of medicine and health professions, advanced research and teaching laboratories, and innovative clinical facilities on higher education, healthcare, and urban campuses. CO Architects is the recipient of the American Institute of Architects, California Council’s prestigious 2014 California Architecture Firm of the Year Award.

About Kansas City University
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, founded in 1916, is a private health sciences university with a College of Biosciences and a College of Osteopathic Medicine. The College of Osteopathic Medicine is the oldest medical school in Kansas City, Missouri, and the largest in the state. It is the second-leading provider of physicians within the states of Missouri and Kansas. KCU opened a second medical school campus in Joplin, Missouri, in 2017, to help address the growing need for primary care physicians in the region’s rural communities. The university also added a doctoral program in clinical psychology in 2017 to meet the growing demand for behavioral health providers in the region.


The simulation suite’s black-box stage set, or sim deck, accommodates small-scale scenarios and large trauma events. Rendering: CO Architects.