New Neurosciences Building, Named in Honor of Joan and Sanford “Sandy” I. Weill, Opens at UCSF
Cavagnero’s Design Connects Psychiatry and Neuroscience Departments, Catalyzing Breakthroughs in Treatments and Therapies
The new UCSF Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building opened today at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus. Named in honor of the Weills, who made a transformational gift of $185M, the new building, designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates (Cavagnero), unites the departments of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences–Neurology, Neurological Surgery, Psychiatry and Behavioral Study, Neurodegenerative Diseases, and the Neuroscience Graduate Program—in one home for the first time. The Weills’ generosity marked the largest gift in UCSF history at the time, and was among the largest gifts ever made to support the neurosciences in the United States.
By integrating psychiatry research into the neurosciences, the UCSF Weill Neurosciences Building will lead to breakthroughs in mental health and accelerate new pathways for solving conditions of the human brain. The new six-story building is designed by Cavagnero as a manifestation of the ambitious, world-changing research and treatments that are envisioned within it. The new building makes UCSF’s Mission Bay campus one of the largest neuroscience complexes in the world, as it joins the adjacent Sandler Neurosciences Center and Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Hall, expanding the capacity of UCSF’s unparalleled research and care.
“The Weills’ generosity combined with UCSF’s expertise redefines interdisciplinary research and patient care, forever changing the way UCSF’s faculty works and engages with the public,” said Mark Cavagnero, Founding Principal of Cavagnero. “Our design challenges perceptions of clinical spaces as it accommodates both scientific precision, to meet the exacting demands of the different departments it holds, and patient care, prioritizing light, warmth, and openness to create a space where patients can feel calm and connected with nature and where faculty want to work. Life-changing advances will be made inside the building, and we’re thrilled to support the discoveries that UCSF makes possible.”
In addition to creating a new home for the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, the building features the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, a multidisciplinary research center for the effective treatments of Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders; the new UCSF Global Brain Health Institute, which aims to reduce the scale and impact of dementia globally by training and supporting the next generation of leaders to translate research into effective policy and practice; and the Weill Neurohub, a joint research network launched by UC Berkeley, UCSF, and the University of Washington to dissolve institutional boundaries and stimulate new cross-disciplinary collaborations in neuroscience.
About the Design
Empowering and encouraging an integrated approach to research, discovery, diagnosis, and care, the Weill Neuroscience Building is the most recent example of Cavagnero’s designs that dismantle institutional silos and encourage connection and collaboration. The 282,900-square-foot building is composed of two program-driven blocks that are articulated to showcase a four-story research center lifted above a two-story clinical volume. Alluding to the two hemispheres of the brain, the building expresses its dual function through these interlocking masses. At the building’s heart, a central atrium creates an important site of gathering and exchange and distinguishes the two programmatic structures. Through its transparency, the atrium establishes a visual pathway between the city and campus and imbues the building with light through its monumental skylight. The Weill Neurosciences Building demonstrates the strength of UCSF’s program, and aims to demystify the work happening within. At night, the building becomes a beacon, embodying the hope of future breakthroughs its team will uncover.
The ground and second floor of the building focuses on clinical care and includes neurology outpatient clinics to expand clinical offerings. These floors have a warm material palette and a high degree of craftsmanship, with sycamore walls and ornamental ceilings to ensure a restorative, calming environment. The clinics are carefully designed to support cross-disciplinary diagnosis and research, with a blood draw facility, two MRI rooms, and a 20-bay infusion suite, so that patients can receive groundbreaking care under one roof.
Above these lower clinical floors, the building’s research center is designed with simple, rational finishes that support scientific discovery. Supporting the collaboration of five departments through the co-location of wet and dry labs, the research center enables many opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange. By bringing psychiatry bench lab research together with other basic research in the neurosciences, leading researchers are able to work side-by-side, building knowledge to treat psychiatric disorders and accelerating their understanding of the brain.
The building’s central atrium bridges these diverse programmatic elements, expressing both the precision of science and the warmth of clinical care. Imbued with daylight and natural materials, it expresses the dualities of the Weill Neurosciences Building and creates a space for all visitors to enjoy.
Like the dual nature of the building’s program and form, its design is a dichotomy, achieving the high degree of structural, mechanical, and electrical design required for its program, while creating an inviting, warm space that offers a new model of what “clinical” can look like. By prioritizing transparency, Cavagnero creates a space that faculty want to work in and that patients can recover in, with natural daylight and views to Koret Quad’s natural landscape. A gallery located on the sixth floor and an accessible rooftop offer opportunities to host private events and familiarize guests with the Weill Neuroscience Building’s mission. Lounge areas and cafes at the center of each floor also give the chance to reflect, connect, and recharge.
Image: UCSF Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building, designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates. Photo Credit: Kyle Jeffers.