ZGF Designs a New Center for Mental Health at University of California, San Francisco

2022 Best of Year Winner for Healthcare

For centuries, architecture has reinforced the stigma of mental illness. Dreary treatment facilities with sterile interiors and small windows can look more like prisons than hospitals. This bright, 173,000-square-foot research and treatment center—home to UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences—by ZGF turns the institutional typology on its head. With large windows and white-oak floors, the biophilic design reflects the fact that access to daylight and nature shortens hospital stays and improves patient outcomes. The building also aims to promote transparency and normalize mental healthcare, encouraging more people to seek help. “The space is meant to signal to patients that they are safe, they are welcome, and that they matter,” associate principal Mirjana Munetic says.

Visitors enter into a five-story atrium that draws the eye up to the skylight, where painted metal baffles filter daylight to the ground floor. The walkways around the atrium have 6-foot-high glass guardrails that enhance the sense of openness while also providing protection for patients. Waiting rooms, traditionally hidden, are adjacent to the atrium, sending a message that behavioral health patients should be visible. With a rooftop garden and an extensive art program—including landscape photographs by Richard Misrach—the resulting environment is calm, with a sense of hope.

a clinician walks through a hallway lit by natural light from large windows
the exterior of UCSF's new building that houses the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences by ZGF Architects
a lounge seating area next to floor to ceiling windows
people walk throughout the lobby of UCSF's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
various levels can be seen from the top floor of UCSF's Psychiatry building designed by ZGF Architects

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