The University of California San Francisco has selected Snøhetta and HGA to design the new Parnassus Research and Academic Building (PRAB) in San Francisco, California. Forming a collaborative partnership, Snøhetta will lead overall conceptual design for the building and surrounding public realm, while HGA will serve as the Executive Architect and Architect of Record, leading programming, planning, and project management, as well as the design of research lab and technical program spaces. One phase of a comprehensive planning process that is underway for a major renovation and expansion of the campus over the next decade, the PRAB project will anchor a redesigned west end of the campus and create a new public realm for the Cole Valley and Inner Sunset neighborhoods.
A San Francisco institution for more than a century, UCSF’s Parnassus Heights campus is renowned for innovation in research and education. Bringing together scientists, students, and clinicians, the new PRAB project will replace UC Hall, UCSF’s oldest building at Parnassus Heights, which was built as the University of California’s first hospital in 1917. UCSF, assisted by Snøhetta and HGA, will be assembling the Design-Build team with local partners to carry out the project. Both firms will work with a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary design-build team from UCSF in an integrated design and construction center to support collaboration, public engagement, and the development of a holistic design.
Renovating the campus is a top priority for UCSF to drive innovations in scientific research, health sciences education, and health care delivery. One key component at PRAB will be UCSF’s CoLabs, a concept that will bring together several previously separate core laboratories into a new model for research collaboration. Preliminary plans for the PRAB envision an approximately 270,000-square-foot building with wet labs, computational labs, modern classrooms, and a nursing school, all supported by open spaces and other public realm improvements. Enhancements to the neighborhood also will include improving pedestrian access to the campus and reducing vehicular traffic along Parnassus Avenue.
For Michelle Delk, Partner at Snøhetta and landscape architect for PRAB, the project represents an opportunity to open the Parnassus Heights campus to the city through visually attractive and physically comfortable outdoor spaces.
“Snøhetta’s approach centers on cultural exchange and the public realm,” Delk explains, “The PRAB project will not only serve clinicians and researchers at UCSF, but will include new vistas, promenades, and public gathering areas that will take advantage of San Francisco’s climate and natural context to bring added beauty to the site and campus.”
While the bulk of the PRAB will be for researchers, an estimated 12,000 square feet will be designed for education. Graduate students will be able to work in labs and attend classes under one roof. To enable telepresence and build on recent advancements in virtual and hybrid learning, classrooms will be designed with accessibility and flexibility in mind.
“The HGA and Snøhetta teams were inspired by the culture of collaboration and dedication to teamwork for which UCSF is known,” said Chris Martin, science and technology market sector leader and principal at HGA. “We are excited to be a part of expanding the legacy of this premier institution by creating a forward-looking research and academic setting to advance human health outcomes and, hopefully, facilitate scientific breakthroughs, where new methods and technologies can lead to exceptional results.”
“The HGA and Snøhetta team embody traits that are not just important for a successful design partnership, but also represent our aspirations for the PRAB project, including collaboration, creativity, innovation and excellence,” said Brian Newman, senior associate vice chancellor, UCSF Real Estate, and vice president, UCSF Health. “The two firms see the project site and its topographical challenges as opportunities to open up the interior of the campus and facilitate movement from the PRAB to other buildings.”
Patti Mitchell, UCSF director of Campus Design and Construction for the west zone, and deputy campus architect, said the Snøhetta and HGA team was selected for developing a particularly people-minded proposal. “They had innovative ideas about how people would interact when they were in the building,” Mitchell said. “Their proposal was more human-centric versus others that were more building-focused.”
“We’re excited to work with UCSF, HGA, and local partners to bring the PRAB project to life,” said Alan Gordon, Partner and architect at Snøhetta. “Our work is defined by collaboration, as we work with stakeholders to realize educational and cultural projects alike. UCSF has become a landmark institution in San Francisco, and we look forward to reimagining this site and the future of the Parnassus Heights campus.”
The Parnassus Research and Academic Building is expected to open in 2026. For more information on UCSF and the Comprehensive Parnassus Heights Plan, visit ucsf.edu/cphp