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Houston Independent School DistricT

Michael e. Debakey high school

for health professions


Architect |

Structural Engineer |

General Contractor |

Completion |

WHR Architects

Ensight, Inc. / Cardno Joint Venture


June 2017

This magnet high school for Houston ISD can accommodate up to 1,000 students in a 195,000 sf facility. It is located in the Texas Medical Center and designed to enhance specialized curriculum for students pursuing careers in medicine, science and health. When started in 1972, the school was the first of its kind in the nation. The school is now ranked third in the state for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs.

The five-story building includes teaching labs for dental, rehabilitation and patient care; science labs are designed to emulate working research labs. There is also a gym, music studio and an arts center. Several terraces provide outdoor gathering space. The heart of the school is a ground floor atrium open to the four levels above and bisecting the two classroom/lab wings. A column-free “floating” staircase anchors one end of the atrium. Extensive glass is used throughout the building to create an open feel.

The west and south elevations have a recessed first floor of approximately 11 feet to provide a covered walkway for the main entrance and protection from the elements. The first floor façade of the east elevation is recessed approximately 22 feet to create a large covered outdoor terrace accessible only by students. Four separate angled roofs top the building and cantilever over every façade.

The efficient rectangular plan maximizes the small site. An economical composite steel structural system provides flexibility to accommodate program requirements as located within the building. The fifth level houses the gymnasium, a gymnastics studio, a visual arts studio with a black box theatre and an accessible outdoor roof terrace. The active areas have floating, isolated floors to mitigate noise and vibration to the rest of the building. Each area has differing height requirements, ranging from 15 to 20 feet. All areas are clustered around a glass monitor that extends above the roof terrace and brings daylight into the ground floor atrium.

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