Rochester, MN, is known for the Mayo Clinic, and rightfully so – though not in my opinion because of the international medical reputation, but because of urban design. The major Mayo buildings sit right downtown, within the city’s rectilinear street grid. They’re a perfectly mismatched blend of styles and histories that together seem more like a city than a campus (in the traditionally uniform sense).
Annenberg Plaza with four medical buildings: Mayo in the left foreground, Gonda in the left background, Plummer in the right foreground, and Siebens adjoining the Plummer.
Some of the streets have become plazas, but the grid is still there, and almost every building has an unexpected indoor-outdoor relationship. The Siebens Building’s ground floor is below street level, but angled windows allow the Annenberg and Peace Plazas into the atrium.
From the Plummer Building looking out on Annenberg Plaza.
The Gonda Building’s lofty Nathan Landow Atrium actually carves the land away, creating inside and outside lounge space below the bustle of the street. On the main level, expansive windows show off Rochester’s urban form.
The Nathan Landow Atrium, from the main (street) level.
Perhaps most strange is the Mathews Heritage Dome, which sits at the edge of Annenberg Plaza. This glass oculus provides a sky view to a lower level lounge, but also allows pedestrians outside to peek down into the building.
Peeping into the Mathews Heritage Dome, with the reflection of the Gonda Building superimposed on the lounge below.
The Mayo Clinic’s commitment to Rochester is well known, but I was struck with its commitment to that city’s urbanity. When it expanded over the years, this health institution could have easily decamped to a woodsy, ravine-studded estate in the hills outside of town. Instead it has created, through building placement and design, a venue that is as much about the city as it is about the clinic.
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