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University of California, San Diego Jacobs Medical Center

The Jacobs Medical Center addition to Thornton Hospital at the University of California, San Diego Health Campus took over a decade of planning and construction to complete. Providing state of the art facilities in a wide variety of specialties, UCSD School of Medicine students complete their resident rotations inside the new Hospital while having access to the improved garden spaces outdoors. The students are exposed to a philosophy of healing that preferences outdoor garden spaces and natural light.

The landscape design for this eleven-acre site takes its cues from the canyon – mesa landscape typology of the San Diego region and Health Campus axes and open-space goals. The site is located on a mesa between two naturally occurring canyons filled with California Sycamores, Toyons and coastal chaparral. Master planning exercises encompassing the entire University Health Campus resulted in the following goals: unify and clarify Medical Center Drive, including its connection to the Central Utility Plant; create an open space system that reestablishes meadow lands on the site; connect the two canyons across the site with a Canyon Walk; and further develop building connections to the existing Health Sciences Walk.

The design team was tasked with seamlessly integrating a variety of outdoor functions and experiences into the overall concept design. These include project entries, wide campus walks, intimate meditative paths, a canyon landscape, meadow and olive grove, great event lawn, roof top sky terraces, protected central courtyards, firelanes, bicycle parking, central utility plant gardens and stormwater basins.

Along Medical Center Drive, existing Eucalyptus trees were replaced with a mix of native California Sycamore and Coast Live Oak trees to create a unified wayfinding identity for the Health Campus.

Fruitless Wilson Olives are planted in a grid to form a field of wispy grey-green foliage, as seen from the hospital tower. A wheelchair-accessible gravel Wellness Walk winds slowly through the Olive trees and ornamental grasses, punctuated with aromatic Rosemary and other shrubs that appeal to the senses. The crunch of gravel, scent of Rosemary, and view of swaying grasses contribute to a meditative and pleasing sensory experience. Benches are placed along the path, providing places for rest, solace and peaceful contemplation. Fast-growing Sycamores mitigate the height of the ten-story bed tower and provide leafy views from patient rooms.

The Health Sciences Walk is a key organizing component of the UCSD Health Campus that links many of the medical and research buildings along an east-west axis. The wide walkway, planted with an allee of Drake Elms, accommodates large numbers of pedestrians travelling between buildings or gathering for events in the Great Lawn. A design representing DNA double helix molecules is cast into the walkway paving.

A flexible event and gathering space for health fairs and other campus affairs, the Great Lawn is centrally located along the Health Sciences Walk. A wide, organically shaped gravel border wraps the lawn, providing places for table set-ups and seating arrangements in dappled shade.

Planted roof terraces located on four different floors provide visitors, patients and staff with visual and actual access to garden spaces. The team utilized fire-rated structural foam to form mounds in the garden beds to add depth to the planting design, while also satisfying strict weight and soil depth requirements. Gardens designed to provide an evergreen tapestry of color and texture, are strategically shaped to form a variety of seating opportunities while maintaining patient privacy. Plants were selected to survive a harsh coastal rooftop environment subject to high winds and sun and stay small enough to avoid outgrowing their planting areas.

The 40,000 sf Central Utility Plant was designed to be unimposing in its canyon natural setting, minimizing its impact on the environment. Planting beds within outrigger structural steel braces help to disguise its size and tie it to the site. The Central Utility Plant achieved a LEED Gold certification.

Sustainability is built seamlessly into the fabric of the scheme, never detracting from the design. Parking stalls and walk paths utilize a GravelPave2 ring substructure filled with gravel to create a permeable and ADA accessible surface. Bicycle parking is provided at the primary staff entries to encourage alternative transportation. Stormwater settling and retention ponds are located at the low end of the site to collect and treat runoff from the building and grounds, before recharging the ground water basin. Interior courtyard oxygenating plants and rooftop gardens also assist in stormwater management. Plant selections are mostly low water use materials and the irrigation design is state-of-the-art, complying with rigorous state and local water conservation ordinances. The project achieved a LEED Silver Certification.

Name of the project: University of California, San Diego Jacobs Medical Center
Project location: La Jolla, CA
Design year: 2010
Year Built: 2018

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