The Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center Design & Construction Fact Sheet

The Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center Design & Construction Fact Sheet


The 23-story complex is the first new research building built by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) since 1989. Capitalizing on new opportunities in cancer research, the facility is intended to provide basic scientists and clinical researchers with an inspiring, interactive, and efficient environment in which they can work together.

The building sits on an “L”-shaped 45,400-square-foot parcel of land located between 68th and 69th Streets, and between First and York Avenues, across the street from Memorial Hospital. The southeast portion of the lot is currently occupied by the 40-year-old Kettering Laboratory building, which will be replaced with a seven-story structure that will be connected to the new research building during a second phase of construction to be completed in 2009.

The creation of this 693,000-gross-square-foot facility (558,000 square feet for the new building, and 135,000 square feet for the Phase 2 building) achieves two top institutional priorities:

  • Accommodates a near-doubling in the number of the Center’s research laboratories
  • Strengthens ties between basic scientific research and clinical applications

Built by Turner Construction Company, the building is approximately 400 feet high and incorporates open, spacious floors with a flexible, “modular” laboratory design that fosters interaction and encourages collaboration among researchers from different disciplines. The unique interior of the facility includes:

  • 18 modular “wet” laboratory units on each laboratory floor that are assigned to investigators based on the size of their respective research programs.
  • The ability to customize and reconfigure each area based on the evolving needs of the personnel. Movable desk stations and laboratory benches provide the ability to adapt to shifts in the number of researchers who use the space, and will accommodate new research requirements and specialized equipment.
  • A generous 9 ½ -foot-high ceiling for each laboratory floor provides flexibility in equipping those areas.

The architectural team of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in collaboration with the design firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership successfully overcame the design challenges imposed by a limited building footprint by creating a unique vertical (“linear”) laboratory facility.

  • This design concept uses space as efficiently as possible by positioning the linear equipment rooms that run parallel to the laboratories on the west side of the building. This provides researchers with easy access to secondary equipment, such as freezers and centrifuges, and also keeps mechanical components and noisy or heat-producing machinery outside the labs.
  • The laboratory support areas, which run adjacent and contiguous to the linear equipment rooms, contain procedure rooms, environmental rooms—walk-in sized refrigerated units in which researchers may store their work—anddark rooms, as well as alcove areas that provide shared space for work conducted by multiple labs.
  • The corridor areas, which run the length of all laboratory floors, feature floor-to-ceiling windows at each end of the building, and are laid out next to the support areas. This central “spine” provides vertical connections from floor to floor via staircases and passenger elevators. Centrally located “interaction staircases” are entirely enclosed in glass, allowing the opportunity for chance encounters and interactions among researchers.
  • Compactly designed offices and conference rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows line the east side of the building and run parallel to the corridor areas.

The building’s architecture and designembraces key goals set forth by the institution to:

  • Integrate new technologies
  • Maximize flexibility for future research
  • Promote multidisciplinary interaction
  • Support translation of scientific discoveries into clinical investigations and patient care applications
  • Increase efficiency of laboratory space and research environment
  • Allow for two phases of construction in order not to disrupt ongoing research

The research facility also includes a Wi-Fi-equipped Cyber Lounge on the ground floor, offering researchers access to the Internet in a welcoming café-style setting. This comfortable space is equipped with a coffee bar that offers hot and cold beverages and light menu options.

Construction began with the groundbreaking in the spring of 2002. Excavators blasted down through 75 feet of solid bedrock to create the foundation of the building, which was completed in the summer of 2003. The construction of the structural framework began in September of that year. In June 2004, the last beam of the building’s steel frame was hoisted to the roof and installed, officially “topping out” the building.

The building’s exterior façade incorporates glass and aluminum materials. Terra cotta reinforced with a durable precast concrete base was utilized at the lower levels to integrate the design into the look of the surrounding Upper East Side neighborhood. The façade was completed in January 2005, and work on the building’s exterior proceeded throughout the year. The first occupants moved into the building in May 2006.

The second phase of construction will begin in late 2006. This will involve demolishing the adjacent Kettering Laboratory building and replacing it with a seven-story building that will contain a conference center with a 350-seat auditorium, a number of “dry” laboratories such as Computational Biology, space for physicians’ academic offices, and a permanent location for the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. When the second phase of construction is completed in early 2009, both buildings will be joined to create a single facility.

Quick Statistics


A total of 693,000 gross square feet for the entire Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center (558,000 sf in 23-story building and 135,000 sf in Phase 2 addition)

  • 1.03-acre site accommodates the entire research complex
  • 8,400 tons of steel in facility’s framework (7,200 tons in 23-story building and 1,200 tons in Phase 2 addition)
  • 7,325 cubic yards of concrete used in the foundation of 23-story building
  • 12,500 cubic yards of concrete used for the structure of 23-story building
  • Excavated to a depth of 75 feet for building’s foundation
  • 135,000 cubic yards of rock and 11,100 cubic yards of soil removed in 4,275 truckloads from construction site of 23-story building
  • 300 miles of electrical wiring installed in 23-story building
  • 75 miles of telephone cable installed in 23-story building

Materials used on exterior:

  • Total of 230,000 square feet of glass (179,000 sf for 23-story building and 51,000 sf for Phase 2 addition)
  • 750,000 pounds of terra cotta masonry applied on 23-story building
  • 15,000-square-feet of metal louvers — specially fabricated wall panels designed to allow fresh air to be pulled into the air conditioning system and “stale” air to be exhausted — used in 23-story building
  • 65,000-square-feet of metal panels — part of the architectural palette of glass, terra cotta, and aluminum — used in 23-story building


  • One 23-story building, 400 feet high
  • 18 laboratory modules per floor, 16 floors of laboratories
  • Approximately 14 conference rooms varying in size, with the capacity to seat between 10 and 30 people
  • One Cyber Lounge and an adjacent library with 4 computer carrels
  • A seven-story addition, 130 feet high, to be completed in Phase 2 of construction
  • One 350-seat auditorium in Phase 2 addition
  • Total of 18 elevators (15 in 23-story building, 3 in Phase 2 addition)
  • 6 staircases
  • 41 restrooms in the 23-story building
  • Commissioned artwork in both phases of construction


  • Construction costs of $503 million for Phases 1 and 2