Designed as a state-of-the-art care model for behavioral health treatment and research, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Child, Teen & Family Center and Department of Psychiatry Building is grounded in ZGF’s commitment to create healthcare spaces that support treatment breakthroughs for clinicians and enhance positive outcomes for patients. Under construction and slated to open in 2021, the building is a critical step forward in advancing behavioral health research and treatment while simultaneously increasing access to and removing the stigma associated with behavioral health services.
Born out of a vision from renowned child psychiatrist and human geneticist Dr. Matthew State, the center will be the first-ever UCSF facility for both pediatric and adult psychiatric patients and one of the first facilities in the U.S. to integrate the neurosciences with traditional psychiatry. The integration of these diverse disciplines under one roof will provide a hub for research and training to advance the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
Research indicates that the stigma associated with behavioral health services, compounded by a scarcity of clinicians and facilities, resulted in over half of those with mental health disorders forgoing treatment in the last year. The Child, Teen & Family Center is intended to serve the Bay Area community, helping to normalize behavioral healthcare and increase access for patients across the full spectrum of ages, including some of the most vulnerable patient populations.
“From the minute they walk in the door, we want to signal that the patient is valued and that there is no difference between walking into this building and walking into any other [medical] building where the patients are at the center of the experience,” says Dr. State, who serves as the executive director of the UCSF Child, Teen & Family Center.
Throughout the building, beauty is married with high-performance design to create a welcoming environment, inviting scientific inquiry as well as healing. Not unlike ZGF’s work in children’s hospitals and other healthcare environments, careful attention is placed on design interventions that support safety, while also promoting a sense of normalcy and optimism.
Openness to the community and transparency in how the building will operate is a primary design driver and will be emphasized through the central atrium and the materials palette. In support of normalizing the care environment – and in stark contrast to the institutional palettes and harsh fixtures typically associated with behavioral healthcare – the design will use extensive daylighting, integrated graphics, color, texture and natural materials. Inspiration for the materials comes in part from San Francisco’s colorful “Painted Ladies” houses and the foggy ocean surroundings to evoke a comforting, home-like environment. The location itself, sited on the edge of the UCSF Mission Bay Campus, enables patients to be fully part of the medical community, and not relegated to a faraway locale as is often the case with psychiatric facilities.
“A departure from a centuries-old model, the building brings traditional science and psychiatry back together, so that the physical and psychological are looked at simultaneously, and researchers can come together to find new avenues for diagnosis and discovery to lead to new treatments,” says Jan Willemse, a design partner with ZGF who has helped shape the project from the outset.
The building will bring multiple programs and researchers at UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry under one roof for the first time and enable flexibility, interaction and collaboration among the neurosurgeons, practitioners, clinicians and staff who will work across the connected floors. “We strongly believe in and wanted to execute on the idea that psychiatry plays a crucial and equal role in the neuroscience community,” said Dr. State.
Early integrated design events held between ZGF and UCSF user groups showed just how drastic a difference this model will make – with researchers quickly envisioning opportunities for collaboration by virtue of being located in the same building. By treating patients ranging from child to adult, researchers and clinicians will be able to better understand physiological explanations for behavior, and also environmental factors across a patient’s lifespan.
A 180-seat auditorium will further encourage collaboration, creating space to host meetings and exchange ideas among members of the Department of Psychiatry, and with the Bay Area community, numerous partners and stakeholders.
To best support patient care across generations, clearly-defined entrances will separate access for adults, and for pediatric patients at the Child, Teen & Family Center, as well as access to research spaces. Patient floors will be designated by specific age populations, creating a specialized patient experience whether the patient is seven or 70. Floors will be outfitted with identical footprint rooms that allow for flexibility between clinical and exam rooms, but also for when programs need to flex and grow. To further the feeling of transparency and inclusiveness, glazing will maximize openness and rooms will be outfitted with wood-trimmed doors.
During planning, careful attention was given to not only ensuring interaction among staff and researchers on each floor, but also interaction via vertical circulation and ample collaboration spaces. Patient waiting rooms will be located adjacent to the atrium – a change from traditionally “hidden” waiting rooms, and in support of the message that behavioral health patients should be visible and treated as they are in other healthcare settings. The atrium itself – visible from the exterior – will serve as a central wayfinding element and symbol of community. Bridges and walkways linking one end of the building to the other will promote connectivity across disciplines and between patients and staff.
Beyond discoveries within the building’s walls, proximity to wet research labs and the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital – all located on the Mission Bay campus – will give patients and families the opportunity to participate in progressive clinical research that will support long-term treatment and wellness.
“My biggest hope is that this building is a game-changer for behavioral health facilities,” said design lead and ZGF principal Justin Brooks. “That the design supports existing patients and those seeking treatment and supports a changing attitude toward behavioral health spaces that will proliferate throughout the healthcare community.”
During the month of May, ZGF is recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month with a series of posts and videos that explore the topic of designing behavioral health spaces.
- Read Part 1 here for an overview on the factors driving the need for behavioral healthcare, and ZGF’s approach to designing these spaces.
- Read Part 2 here for a feature on ZGF medical planner, architect and registered nurse Tammy Felker.