UCSF Wayne and Gladys Valley Center for Vision

The once industrial area of Mission Bay has been reimagined as an up and coming neighborhood on the eastern edge of San Francisco. High-rise condos, biotech companies, and the Golden State Warriors Chase Center have all taken root in Mission Bay. The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) chose Mission Bay as the home for their newest medical campus, dedicated to providing world class healthcare and research facilities. One of the most recent additions to this campus is the Wayne and Gladys Valley Center for Vision. Creo teamed up with the architect SmithGroup and won the competition for the design of the new Vision Center.

Drawing inspiration from the building’s purpose, the landscape design is inspired by the form of a neuron. Two main outdoor spaces abstract the soma, or cell body of the neuron. Paths and a drop-off zone extending from the main spaces evoke the axon of a neuron, transmitting people from one zone to another. The design thoughtfully considers all of the occupants of the building – from the patients seeking eye care to the doctors and scientists providing world-class medical care while conducting important research. The design is also driven by sustainability, incorporating large stormwater planters and permeable pavers throughout the site.

The first of two primary outdoor zones is at the corner of 16th Street and 3rd Street. Located one block from the local light rail transit stop, it welcomes visitors to the Vision Center. Two large angular stormwater planters filled with textured grasses guide visitors from the intersection to the building. Sculptural wood benches accentuate the angles of the plaza, and offer a place for visitors to rest. A subtle paver pattern runs throughout the plaza, further defining the space. The pavers are spaced with gravel gaps, allowing stormwater to permeate and be treated below the surface.

To the east on Illinois Street, a wide drop-off zone carves into the site to provide easy access for visually impaired patients. Planting lines the drop-off area, simultaneously creating a comfortable pedestrian zone and filtering stormwater before it returns to the nearby San Francisco Bay. The drop-off zone’s gentle slope allows the area to be curb-free, creating a seamless transition for patients moving from vehicles to the building.

The path from the drop-off zone opens up into a larger pedestrian paseo at the south side of the Vision Center. Once again, angular stormwater planters define this space, hugging the building and breaking up the paved zones to create seating areas of various sizes. Striking wood benches and a concrete seat wall offer many places for patients and their families, medical students, and doctors and scientists to sit, whether waiting for an appointment or taking a lunch break. Gingko trees emerge from the angular planters, creating a visual buffer between the paseo and adjacent parking lot.

All of the exterior spaces at the Vision Center are thoughtfully designed to welcome patients seeking world-class eye care, and to provide an enjoyable outdoor space for those pushing the field of ophthalmology forward. The plaza, drop-off zone, and paseo work together to create a welcoming experience, with sustainability measures invisibly woven throughout the design.

Architecture offices involved in the design: SmithGroup

Project location: 490 Illinois St, San Francisco, CA 94158

Design year: 2016

Year Built: 2020


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