Cancer Research Building Design Encourages Interaction and Integration

This building’s functional order develops around a sky-lit, multi-story atrium that's located between the lab and office blocks

Designed to encourage interaction and collaboration among three cancer-related research programs, this 5-story building mediates the city/campus transition with two interlocking, L-shaped masses above a stone base at street level, providing approximately 162,000 square feet. The Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building at the University of California, San Francisco includes research laboratories, faculty offices, conference rooms, open breakrooms and lounges, a seminar room, an atrium, a lobby, and rooftop terraces.


The building’s functional order, designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, develops around a sky-lit, multi-story atrium located between the lab and office blocks. This open interior space becomes the focus of the facility, providing for building circulation and public functions. Terraced floor levels are linked by a series of bridges and cascading stairways. Glass guardrails serve to maximize a sense of openness. Amenities, such as break rooms and conference rooms, are located around the periphery on each floor. The design encourages maximum interaction, integrating the atrium into all aspects of the scientists’ daily lives. This increased connectivity in and across the atrium improves flexibility in assigning lab and office spaces, and handling expansion or contraction in various research programs by allowing programs to conveniently spread across one or more floors.


Laboratories feature an open, flexible bench environment. This model is designed to serve future re-planning needs as they arise by incorporating custom modular laboratory bench systems with integrated utilities. Lab and support spaces are stacked at each floor with partitions that can be removed to reconfigure lab and support layout or adjust their ratios. Each open lab suite has continuous exterior windows and clerestory glazing, external sunshades for daylight control and thermal comfort, and a light shelf and a vaulted acoustic tile ceiling to reflect sunlight into the depth of the room.