After slimming down the construction plans – Forum Medicum is now underway

Forum Medicum – the new major construction of the Faculty of Medicine at the top of Sölvegatan – will become a reality. For a while, things looked bad, but by making small adjustments here and there, the project can now be pursued to begin construction in the winter of 2018/2019.

Forum Medicum

The idea of Forum Medicum is to establish a joint biomedical and health sciences centre for research and knowledge. The faculty’s health sciences activities are currently located at the Health Sciences Centre on Baravägen, quite far away from the faculty’s other activities. The building on Baravägen is also less functional in many ways and, if they were to stay, it would require a major renovation.

This is now avoided through the new Forum Medicum. It is also possible to integrate the new premises with those occupied by the Biomedical Centre (BMC) along Sölvegatan, and achieve good shared use as well as new interdisciplinary opportunities.

There have been many, and good, ideas, but the result was expensive: the original design proposal had an estimated rental cost of almost SEK 50 million. This was way too much, according the faculty board in June last year, who rejected the proposal.

“I felt somewhat dejected. Was all the work going to be in vain? But now I think we have managed to

Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson

Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson

make the necessary savings while keeping the main features of our vision”, says Dean Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson.

Among others things, the savings involve slightly reducing the amount of space. The new building will not have any large lecture halls, so the need for such will have to be solved by taking advantage of those already present at BMC, and in some cases renting space at the nearby Faculties of Humanities and Theology or Engineering. The entrance facing north is scrapped, the connection between the new building and BMC is simplified, and cheaper materials are to be used whenever possible.

Through these changes, the rent has been reduced to approximately SEK 30 million a year. This cost is believed to be only slightly higher compared to what it would cost to renovate the current health sciences building, and it is within the expense cap decided by the faculty board at the meeting in June.

“We began planning the Forum Medicum project by discussing what we wanted the new building to be. When we later included the financial aspects, we realised that it wasn’t doable. If we had started at the other end, however, we would perhaps have been so focused on saving money that we wouldn’t have included any visions at all. That would not have been better”, says Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson.

With regard to the offices, there has been a concern among the staff about the prospect of possibly deviating from so-called cellular offices (individual rooms) and switching to flexible workspaces (where employees do not have their own offices). Experiences from the Niagara building at Malmö University have been clearly negative.

“The most likely scenario is that there will mainly be cellular offices for the administrative staff. I would, however, like to preserve our curiosity about activity-based workspaces as some of our employees are more positive about this idea, and that there may be spaces where more open environments can be tested by those who are interested”, says Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson. Perhaps it will be a combination of the two models, but the decision has not yet been made.

What we do know, however, is that Forum Medicum will give students and staff a modern learning environment.

“The teaching rooms will promote group work and discussions. They will be equipped with mikes in the ceiling and computer screens on the walls, so that everyone can see the study materials and participate in the conversation. The students may have received films and information in advance through an IT platform, so that the discussion can start at a level where everyone is already well prepared”, says Cecilia Lundberg vice-dean at the faculty, in charge of educational issues.

During the planning stage, the people who are part of the different working groups of the Forum Medicum project have made several trips to look at other office and learning environments. The latest trip, a couple of weeks ago, was to Panum, Microsoft and the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen.

“We have seen many inspiring environments for teaching rooms and other spaces. We know that students today do not spend a lot of time at home studying; they prefer having people around them. We must therefore have plenty of flexible spaces for meetings, group work and joint studies”, argues Cecilia Lundberg.

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Text: Ingela Björck