The new Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center—a multidisciplinary facility dedicated to providing world-class basic science, translational science, and clinical service—is the latest addition to the east quadrant of the University of California, San Diego campus, devoted to medical research and treatment. The Cancer Center includes space for clinical care, basic research, cancer prevention and control, and administration departments. It consolidates existing programs that were previously dispersed throughout the campus, bringing researchers, clinicians, prevention specialists, and educators under one roof in a “bench-to-bedside” approach to conquering cancer.

At any given time, the Cancer Center has approximately 150 open clinical trials—studies that compare the best standard of care with a promising new treatment—from smoking cessation to breast cancer prevention to pain management to gene therapy. The center is structured to integrate the flow of information from these trials back to the laboratory setting to stimulate collaborative investigation by all research disciplines. Shared resources in the building provide investigators with access to expensive equipment and specialized expertise. These shared resources are positioned to facilitate the flow of discoveries from the basic research and prevention research groups to the clinical scientists in the center who test them for implementation in clinical practice.


The ultimate design goal was to bring a 270,000-sq.-ft., multifunction building down to a residential scale and to create a culture of interaction, peacefulness, and patient-friendliness. The facility consists of two structures that share a common base: a three-story clinical services and administrative/educational facility, and a five-story research center. The distinct structures accommodate the highly specialized types of space required for the research laboratories, clinical functions, and an office zone, while the unifying base physically and conceptually provides programmatic interconnections between the two buildings. A series of healing gardens was designed to sensitively relate to the needs of the Cancer Center staff and patients.


The first floor is organized to provide direct paths from the main entrance lobby to the waiting areas for each clinic. The clinical spaces are organized on the west side of a Bamboo Garden, along a public “Main Street.” A “back of the house” street provides doctor/staff circulation within the clinical space to eliminate crossing patient waiting areas.

Project category: New construction (completed April 2005)

Chief administrator: M. Boone Hellmann, FAIA, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Campus Architect, (858) 534-4589

Firm: Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, (213) 617-1901

Design team: Ted A. Hyman, AIA, Partner-in-Charge/Project Manager; R. Doss Mabe, FAIA, Design Partner; Dusty Rhoads, AIA, Design Partner; James Woolum, Interior Designer

Photography: © Robert Canfield; © Nick Merrick, Hedrich Blessing

Total building area (sq. ft.): 270,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $268

Total construction cost (excluding land): $72,400,000


The second and third levels are connected by bridges or programmed space. The second floor is intended to be the circulation hub of the Cancer Center. A stair connection from the lobby to the second floor provides access to the Mesa, a large outdoor patio sprinkled with umbrella-shaded tables and chairs. This floor houses the Cancer Prevention and Control and Cancer Center Administrative programs. An auditorium, also located off the Mesa, can accommodate as many as 120 people. And finally, off the Mesa, is the Cancer Commons, the building's “living room” which, along with the outdoor gardens, offers spaces of varying size and character to support interaction among the faculty and students while providing space for patients waiting for and during treatments. The flexible labs, on the east side of the building, are essentially repeated on floors three, four, and five.