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With its stunning atrium, the Albert Einstein Education and Research Center introduces an urban oasis into a massive building. At 45,000 square metres, the Safdie Architects-designed complex makes an emphatic statement about the importance of medical research — in Brazil and beyond — as well as the potential for nature and wellness to be integrated at the core of architectural design.

Located in the residential district of Morumbi, São Paulo, and adjacent to the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, the building was designed with Perkins&Will as executive architect. For Safdie, it’s the latest in a number of marquee projects —including Singapore’s Jewel Changi airport and Hangzhou International Centre — that make the atrium a central marvel.

A view of the Albert Einstein Center atrium from the middle levels, showing greenery below the Moshe Safdie-designed canopy
Photo by Timothy Hursley

At the Einstein Center, this central space — with a lush landscape design by São-Paulo-based Isabel Duprat Landscape Architecture — is surrounded by stepped terraces that connect to four “levels of activity,” as the Safdie press release notes: a restaurant on the first floor, amphitheater and auditorium in the middle levels, and exhibition/event space on the fourth.

Inside the atrium, with seating in the foreground and greenery throughout
Photo by Timothy Hursley

The atrium’s vaulted roof structure, comprised of three overlapping leaves, features an innovative shading and daylighting system that Safdie Architects perfected with the German company Seele. It’s the signature element in a building that nestles into its sloped site. Beneath this luminous crown, the edifice’s massing steps in and out with full-height glass walls, extensively planted terraces and shaded overhangs. A louvered facade allows the institution to blend in more harmoniously with its surroundings.

greenery-filled space at the base of the Albert Einstein Center atrium, designed by Moshe Safdie

Many aspects of the design were the results of ongoing experimentation — the atrium being the greatest challenge. As Perkins&Will explain, calibrating the vaulted glass roof structure necessitated a building an exact mockup of the structure in Germany. “It was created with the same height as the real building in order to simulate the accurate sensation of the sunlight,” the executive architects explain.

View of the entrance from the exterior, showing the louvered facade

“The fritted glass with a pattern of dots (that are more dense and opaque in areas of greater insolation) allowed to reduce solar heat gain and ensure uniform thermal comfort, delicately filtering sunlight. The green roof also contributes to temperature control,” say Perkins&Will. In fact, the building’s construction process also included the testing of acoustics (for the main atrium) and the colour of the concrete used throughout the building.

A view of medical laboratory spaces, behind a curved glass wall

On either side of the atrium, the hospital (made up of three underground levels and five upper levels) is organized in two wings: The east wing contains the main teaching spaces, including education spaces for nursing, medicine, graduate programs, medical residency, and technical courses. The west wing houses medical research facilities, including laboratories, clean rooms and clinical research resources. 

The laboratories are focused on evolving sciences including molecular biology, bioengineering, nanotechnology, drug research and clinics — and are designed with flexibility in mind to adjust with the times.

A bird's eye view of the Albert Einstein complex, designed by Moshe Safdie and Perkins&Will

The Albert Einstein Education and Research Center’s completion comes at a momentous time for Moshe Safdie’s firm. The Israeli-Canadian architect is still most recognized for Habitat 67, and he recently donated his apartment in the iconic brutalist building to McGill University — along with his professional archive. The collection, according to the CBC, is “composed of more than 100,000 items, including sketchbooks, models, drawings and correspondence related to unbuilt and built projects across the globe.”

Moshe Safdie’s “Tree Canopy” Breathes Life into a Brazilian Medical Centre

The Albert Einstein Hospital Teaching and Research Center in São Paulo brings Moshe Safdie’s epic approach to the atrium to a healthcare setting.

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