'If You Build It...'
By Rich McManus
On the Front Page...
The airy and spacious new main entrance to the Clinical Center on the south side of Bldg. 10 was already a success before it officially opened with a ribbon-cutting on the morning of Jan. 11. Embodying the most famous line from the film Field of Dreams -- "If you build it, they will come" -- NIH'ers visiting the hospital on Jan. 10 tried the door, found it open, and immediately adopted it as their own, ceremonies be damned.
Yong-Duk Chyun, project director for the new Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, whose construction on the north face of Bldg. 10 made the south entrance necessary, was at the South Entry all weekend before the grand opening and witnessed scores of visitors tentatively approaching the former -- and once far humbler -- back door.
"They would walk in and their jaws would drop," he said. "They were saying 'This is really nice. Is this what the new Clinical Research Center is going to look like?,'" Chyun recalls. To which he responded with characteristic enthusiasm, "The new CRC will be even better!"
During a routine quarterly report to NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus on CRC construction progress in early January, Chyun was shocked when the notoriously unceremonial Varmus said the debut of the South Entry deserved a bit of circumstance.
So, on a chilly bright morning in the aftermath of a snowfall, NIH officials gathered to snip a ribbon officially opening the permanent back door to what Varmus called the Magnuson/Hatfield complex. As cold as it was on the other side of the glass, it was toasty inside as huge windows admitted warming sun.
"My colleagues were quite surprised when the anti-ceremony NIH director called for a ribbon-cutting to mark this occasion," Varmus quipped. "But I think it's important to pause just a moment to realize that we have reached a milestone in construction of the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, which we hope to see finished in 2002. The opening of the South Entry is a pivotal event in that process."
Varmus said that despite ugly mounds of dirt and awkward pedestrian routes engendered by the new entryway, the job was done "on time, and with a certain amount of grace and artistic panache. We can expect that the rest of the building will have a similar architectural beauty."
The opening of the South Entry also means "we can get to work more seriously now on the CRC," Varmus said. "You can expect a great deal more activity by the end of the month." Dubbing the new back door "a permanent entry to the Magnuson side of the Magnuson/Hatfield complex," Varmus grabbed an overlarge gold scissors, snipped the ribbon and bade, "Enter at your pleasure."
Which is exactly what dozens of people did anyway throughout the ceremony.
Some two stories tall and a marriage of glass and honey-tinted maple veneer, the South Entry prominently displays, on the wall facing entrants, the original metal letters spelling out Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center, and a bold PHS shield. These accoutrements once graced the north front of what was once known as the Ambulatory Care Research Facility, or ACRF, built onto the face of old Bldg. 10 in 1982. But few could see the letters because they contrasted so poorly with the building's pink brick, noted architect David Esch of the firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, which is designing the new CRC.
Now mounted on wood paneling, the signage stands out. "Our firm likes to use wood finishes in all our projects," Esch explained. "It creates a warm, inviting feel to the space that people can relate to. We're also known for creative approaches to using natural light."
As scores of employees and visitors made the space their own -- valets barked "Rides to BaltimoreWashington Airport!" and hustled luggage through the lobby -- Chyun confirmed that the pace of CRC construction will soon pick up dramatically. Five huge cranes the size of the ones recently placed at the west and east edges of Bldg. 10 will be erected on the north side of the complex, and the porte cochere under which cars once approached the hospital's old front door is imminently due for a month-long demolition. When excavation reaches the front edge of the building, some 300-400 dump trucks will visit the site daily, Chyun said.
Ironically, the new South Entry answers a need that long predates the new CRC, according to longtime CC employees; for decades, workers have bemoaned blustery, Arctic conditions on the north face of Bldg. 10. Some insist the winter winds blew colder and more furiously there than anyplace else on campus. By comparison, the south side was sunny and calm, the breezes blocked by the building's monolithic heft. Why not make that the front door?, they wondered.
Whether oldtimers or new visitors, those using the new South Entry needn't worry about how to find their way through the hospital once inside the revolving door. Guides wearing red "Ask Me" buttons have been posted in the lobby and are happy to give directions.
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