With the collaborative partnership, Snøhetta and HGA will design the PRAB at the University of California, San Francisco.
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It consists of around 270,000 square-foot labs and a classroom building, designed for completion in 2026, which will replace the soon to be demolished UC Hall which was designed by Lewis P. Hobart. This building was built in 1917 which is an old Beaux-Arts structure on the UCSF campus constructed as the inaugural hospital, dedicated to health science, making the university the major medical and biological research centre and home to one of the most prestigious medical schools in the United States.

Parnassus Research and Academic Building to be designed by Snøhetta and HGA Sheet1
Snøhetta and HGA to Design New UCSF Parnassus Research and Academic Building_©Snohetta

The team will lead the design of a major new hospital at the university’s Parnassus Heights campus which is approximately estimated around $700 million, where both the new medical centre and PRAB are being designed and carried out as per the prepared master plan by Comprehensive Parnassus Heights Plan (CPHP)

The preliminary design plans of the project are not available at this early stage of development, but as detailed in a press release, Snøhetta will lead the overall conceptual design for the building and landscape and site improvements, while HGA serving as executive architect and architect of record will oversee programming, planning, and project management along with the design of research lab and technical program spaces within the new building of the project, where also 12,000 square feet of space will be dedicated to education. 

As per the detailed announcement in the press release, both the firms will work along with a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary design-build team from the UCSF to develop an integrated and holistic design with the collaboration of public engagement.

The plan to replace and demolish the UC Hall hasn’t been ahead without going through considerable controversy as in 2014, UCSF announced it would completely retrofit the ageing hospital building and convert it into much-needed student housing. But later in 2019, those design plans, which entailed considerable risk through extensive seismic retrofitting, were cancelled and it was announced the building would be razed to make way for a state-of-the-art research building now known as the Parnassus Research and Academic Building.

But later a petition was launched from Change.org to save the building from demolition which stated that said that it not only indicates an absolute disregard for irreplaceable architectural heritage but also an absence of foresight towards it and a failure to recognize the environmental benefits of adaptive re-use of the building, lacking active conscious knowledge to San Francisco’s housing crisis and an egregious decision by an institution that claims to value and cherish its historical contributions to the medical sciences.

There was a particular concern regarding the building itself which was added by the preservationists about the series of ten New Deal-era murals by Polish-born Jewish artist Bernard Zahkeim that graced the Toland Hall, the old hospital’s main lecture room.
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Where later UCSF announced in October of last year that they have hired a local conservation firm to carefully remove and relocate the murals to another location which is yet to be announced.

As per new urban regeneration with the new building and the revitalized landscape surrounding it, this project will not only serve clinicians and researchers at UCSF, but will also include new vistas, promenades, and public gathering areas that will take advantage of San Francisco’s climate and natural context, adding beauty to the site and campus said Michelle Delk, partner at Snøhetta and landscape architect for PRAB.

Brian Newman who is the vice president of UCSF Health and also the senior associate vice-chancellor of UCSF Real Estate said that the two firms see the project site and its topographical challenges as the opportunity to open up the interior of the campus by creating and making improvements to the existing public spaces, including reducing vehicular traffic and remodeling pedestrian access, thus providing the city with attractive outdoor areas and to facilitate movement from the PRAB to other buildings.

In total 17 firms responded to the university’s request for proposals and the Snøhetta and HGA team’s joint proposal was selected and was detailed out by UCSF, from a group of four shortlisted entries where the selection committee was led by Chancellor Sam Hawgood, was reportedly drawn to the deeply collaborative nature of Snøhetta and HGA’s idea.

The project will create an array of improvements to the existing public spaces, including reducing vehicular traffic and remodeling pedestrian access, thus providing the city with attractive outdoor areas. The Parnassus Research and Academic Building complex is expected to be completed and to open in 2026.


An Architect who believes different dimensional ways have a different impact on design, and I make a conscious effort to create spaces that are efficient and functional in every dimension of architecture.