Battling degenerative brain disease under an intricate steel canopy
The $80m Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is a dramatic addition to the downtown Las Vegas skyline and a spur for research into degenerative brain disease.
Pioneered by drinks entrepreneur and philanthropist Larry Ruvo, who lost his own father to Alzheimer’s, the 5,600 m2 facility is dedicated to caring for patients with cognitive brain disorders, supporting their families and continuing the search for improved treatments.
Designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, this remarkable complex is split into two distinct wings, representing the logical and creative aspects of brain function. To the north, a stack of splayed rectangular boxes, clad in white stucco render with glazed recesses, forms the ‘logical’ four-storey medical clinic, containing patient facilities, neuroimaging suites and research space. To the south, an undulating stainless steel and glass structure – reflecting creative thought – houses a large atrium, allowing the centre to double as a revenue-generating events facility.
Every steel connection in cantilever support structure individually designed and fabricated
Located in the city’s 61-acre Symphony Park, the bold structure is raising community awareness of Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease and other brain disorders. But it is designed very much with the patient experience in mind. With plenty of natural light and curved corridors, the centre deliberately veers away from the typical clinical environment.
The medical wing has a steel frame and composite concrete and metal deck floors, while a distinctive curved steel trellis cantilevers off its south side, marking the transition between two halves of the complex. The events centre, meanwhile, comprises a laser-cut prefabricated structural steel shell punctured by 199 windows that flood the space with natural light. Supplemented only by two internal steel ‘tree’ columns, the unique structure is largely self-supporting, making possible the column-free atrium inside.
As structural engineer of record of the building, WSP worked tirelessly to create a building system as elegant and complex as the outer shell. The irregular elevation of the clinic’s north façade meant accurate detailing of the steelwork was crucial, while design of the curved trellis had to factor in large lateral seismic and wind forces. Virtually every steel connection had to be individually designed and fabricated. BIM was vital to the design process, allowing our team to accommodate the project’s complex geometry.