‘An intellectual collision’


The building that houses the new Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center is sheathed in an iridescent skin of stainless steel plates. As the plates catch the sun’s rays, they reflect a myriad of different colors, from turquoise to green to deep purple.

It is a sight that gives the new center a high-tech, almost space-age look. The planners, architects, UCSD staff and scientists who will make the new center their home hope the flashy exterior will be matched by equally impressive results from within the building.The new cancer center has been eight years in planning and more than two years in construction. The 270,000-square-foot building, which will eventually house hundreds of researchers, doctors, patients and support staff, is aimed at taking the UCSD Cancer Center into its next stage of progress. In doing so, the center will bring together researchers and clinicians from all over San Diego to work in one building.

Treatment and research will take place under the same roof in two distinct but closely linked sides of the building and the very latest in technology and treatment philosophies will infuse the new building with life as the first experts start to move in.

“We’re one of 39 (National Institutes of Health)-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country,” said Dennis Carson, director of the center. “We provide every aspect of cancer care, cancer prevention and cancer research, but we’ve been scattered throughout the campus, without a home.”

Carson said that the doctors on his staff have not previously been able to communicate to their best potential with scientists, and that patients have often had to visit multiple sites for treatment. In contrast, the new center offers one location where patients have access to all the latest care options and where research scientists rub shoulders with their colleagues and with experts in cancer treatment.

The main lobby of the center is a sweeping, open-plan affair. Facing the long reception desk, to the right sits the three-story clinical services, clinical research and administrative facility. To the left is a five-story research tower. The two wings of the building are linked by shared eating areas, a shaded bamboo court and “the bridge,” a central connecting platform.

Planners hope that the shared areas will encourage synergy between researchers and clinical services staff. Dusty Rhoads of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, the building’s architects, said his firm wanted to maximize “intellectual collisions” in the building.

“Essentially, how do you design the facility to foster those kinds of collisions where I bring people together?” asked Rhoads. “In large part, that’s where a lot of the science takes place, it will be over lunch or it will be in a corridor.”

The center’s Katzin Research Tower will be an intellectual collision in itself. Scores of researchers, from disparate programs previously based from Hillcrest to Torrey Pines, will soon be sharing the five floors of open laboratories.

The gleaming new labs are designed with collective storage areas for scientists to house their equipment. There