Corazones De Nuevo Mexico Groundbreaking October 11, 2013
In recognition of UNM School of Medicine faculty and remembering those faculty who have died during the medical school's first 50 years, a memorial design was commissioned that immortalizes those values espoused by the UNM School of Medicine in the education of today’s and tomorrow’s physicians. HSC TV shows us the recent memorial groundbreaking for "Corazones de Nuevo Mexio" (Hearts of New Mexico), designed by UNM architecture and planning student Christine Williams.
Credit: Rebecca Gustaf

A landscaped garden and art installation memorializing deceased faculty members will be center stage when the University of New Mexico School of Medicine kicks off its 50th anniversary celebration next summer.

The school, which welcomed its first students in 1964, has adopted the theme, “It's All About the People” for a months-long program of anniversary events and alumni gatherings starting in June 2014. The theme acknowledges the important role the faculty play in guiding medical students to embrace critical knowledge, values and commitment to their future patients.

The Corazones de Nuevo México memorial will be located in the Canyon Garden, in the lower-level plaza at the UNM Health Sciences Center. It will depict heartbeat imagery with tubes of light engraved with the names of deceased medical faculty.

The design was one of about 25 selected in a juried competition, says Dr. Jeffrey Griffith, the medical school's emeritus executive vice dean, who helped steer the project.

“We had a great response, with some superb design concepts,” Griffith says. The committee of reviewers settled on a design submitted by Christine Williams, a student in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning. Her submission, “The People’s Heartbeat,”  was developed in association with a design team from Garrett Smith, Ltd.

In her design, heartbeats will be evoked with tubes of light arranged throughout a serpentine bench, which reposes within a landscaped garden to invite interaction. The name of each deceased faculty member will be engraved on its own tube, symbolizing that each honoree was a “point of light” for students.

Williams says the design competition was a creative challenge. “I have about 20 pages of sketches,” she says. “My original concept is very different from the end product. I liked the heartbeat idea from the beginning, so I began writing down ideas and then formulating sketches. I really wanted to make the space more functional and more usable.”

Williams hit on the idea of using acrylic rods to visually represent a heartbeat on an EKG. “I wanted this space to be used by School of Medicine  students,” she say. “I thought I could draw them in with night lighting, benches and select plant material in a compelling layout.”

Griffith developed the idea of a statewide competition for the memorial design. Parameters were established for an open entry contest, and a notification sent out to various organizations, including the UNM School of Architecture and Planning.

A competition jury of professionals was selected from UNM and the community, and chaired by Roger Schluntz, former dean of the architecture school.

The design jury included Griffith, Dr. Philip Eaton, emeritus HSC vice president, Laura Hall, a senior program manager in the Health Sciences Library & Informatics Center, architect Gene Dyer, Geoff Adams, director of the architecture program, university architect Robert Doran and Alf Simon, associate dean of the architecture program.

“Ms. Williams’ design for this memorial celebrates people – the patients, the students, and the faculty who make up our educational family,” Griffith says.

In addition to the engraved memorial, faculty contributions over the past 50 years -and for years to come - will be recognized through a complementary web-based memorial containing departmental affiliations, historical information, photographs, personal recollections and professional details.

“We love the idea that the winning design was created by a student, for students, to memorialize the incredible vision, talent and commitment of our School of Medicine faculty – then and now.”