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UCSF Institute for Regeneration Medicine, San Francisco, USA by Rafael Viñoly

Categories: Architecture + Interiors

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) issued an RFP in 2005 for a new laboratory, the Institute for Regeneration Medicine Building (IRM), and ultimately commissioned Rafael Viñoly Architects PC for the project after a competitive interview process. The firm was chosen for its wealth of laboratory experience, the strength of its previous successful work with the university, and the researchers’ belief that the firm would bring the most creative solution to the design challenge.

In response to a narrow, steeply sloping site at the foot of Mount Sutro, Rafael Viñoly Architects designed a long horizontal building that follows the adjacent Medical Center Way. The main floor functions as one continuous laboratory divided into four split levels, each stepping down a half-story as the building descends the forested mountain slope, and each topped by an office cluster and a green roof.

Exterior ramps and stairs, taking advantage of the temperate climate, provide continuous circulation between all levels, and the facility connects to three nearby research and medical buildings via a pedestrian bridge. The building structure is supported by cantilevered steel columns resting on concrete piers, which minimize site excavation and incorporate seismic base isolation to absorb earthquake forces.


Inside the building, the transitions between the split levels are designed as hubs of activity: break rooms and stairs located at these interfaces increase the potential for chance interaction, and interior glazing maximizes visual connectivity between the lower labs and the upper offices. To further promote collaboration, the laboratories occupy an open, horizontal floor plan, with a highly flexible, custom-designed casework system that enables the rapid reconfiguration of the research program. Abundant south-facing glazing floods the open laboratories and offices with natural light and views of the wooded slope of Mount Sutro nearby.


In accordance with university policy, the project will be certified LEED Silver and will follow Labs21 environmental performance criteria. The IRM achieves these sustainability measures most notably with landscaped green roofs that minimize heat island effect, control stormwater runoff, insulate the building, and provide an outdoor amenity for building occupants.

Photography by Bruce Damonte

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