At their best, top health-science and academic medical campuses perform like small towns, accommodating “thousands of daily stakeholders with diverse activities, needs, and destinations,” says Jeffrey Brand, a Perkins Eastman executive director and principal. To create opportunities for productive interactions among their stakeholders, the firm is helping major institutions—such as the University of Miami, University of California San Francisco, and University of Kuwait—replace an outmoded tradition of placing medical care, academics, and research in silos, separate and removed from each other. As advances in each of these three areas become ever more sophisticated and integrated, it’s important to recognize that “one person’s science in a lab may be the medical solution for a patient. That’s why bringing people together and letting them talk about what they are doing is essential for discovery both in and outside the lab setting,” says Brand, who co-leads the firm’s healthcare practice with Principal Jason Harper.

Perkins Eastman has established a brain trust of experts to guide health and science institutions as they chart their next generation of growth. Perhaps more than any other business or academic sector, medical master planning often requires contemplating growth not only on a single campus but also across multiple sites with additional networks of outpatient facilities and nonclinical support buildings. Such efforts demand layers of expertise that blend healthcare and higher education design with urban planning, transportation, mixed-use development, and hospitality. “It’s about putting these different components together to create a different outcome,” says Perkins Eastman Executive Director and Principal Hilary Kinder Bertsch. The firm has completed many medical-campus master plans for large institutions in the past, and it continues to work on and pursue more.

The University of Miami medical campus master plan carves quadrangles and promenades into its dense urban location. All Images and Renderings © Perkins Eastman
The master plan for the University of Miami’s downtown medical campus calls for direct links to public transit, making it easier and more equitable for people to access its facilities.

Spontaneous Interactions

A rendering of the University of Miami illustrates a new quadrangle that unites both existing and new buildings.

Each campus master plan must respond to an institution’s culture, size, location, and budget, but above all, Brand says, “We want these folks who are at the highest level of academia to collide and talk about their research, help the learners, and try and invent new protocols for medicine. The master plans we’re designing now are meant to funnel these folks together.” They must support the goals of the clinical, educational, and research population, in addition to their overlaying operations and leadership, and the community in which they all can thrive. It is a response to what clients and stakeholders have expressed to the healthcare team. “They are requesting places for respite, engagement, social interaction, work collaborations, stimulation, equitable access to care, ease of moving around a campus, and other meaningful, town-like features,” Brand says.

That is the goal at the University of Miami, which hired Perkins Eastman to rethink how its medical campus could use existing buildings and design new ones across more than 100 acres of its downtown setting in addition to satellite outpatient centers up to 30 miles away. The downtown plan carves quadrangles and greens into the university’s dense urban fabric to create a more welcoming, garden-like environment for pedestrians. It also creates a precinct of research, clinical, and academic buildings, all connected within a five-minute walk along pleasing pathways lined with plantings, benches, shops, and cafés. Significantly, the plan places the medical district directly on the city’s transit and bus lines, providing “equitable access to care, so it’s not all about the car anymore,” Brand says.

A rendering shows the terraced landscape along one of the pathways that traverses the campus as it steps up toward Mount Sutro.
The “Park to Peak” master plan for the University of California San Francisco’s Parnassus Heights medical campus illustrates the pedestrian flows between Golden Gate Park to the north and Mount Sutro to the south.

Seeking to foster a similarly vital environment, the firm has crafted a 30-year comprehensive plan for the modernization and expansion of the University of California San Francisco’s Parnassus Heights campus. The “Park to Peak” plan, which commenced in 2021, calls for a new “front door” to the campus at an existing transit stop, transforming a forbidding wall of parking garages into a welcoming streetscape that opens views toward Golden Gate Park to the north. It also calls for a series of terraces and walkways that guide people through campus buildings to Parnassus Avenue on the southern border and onto the adjacent parkland surrounding the peak of Mount Sutro. The plan’s guidelines inform the design approach of a new 700-bed hospital along with research and academic buildings and proposed new campus housing, as well as the adaptive reuse of many existing buildings. The intent, says Principal Vaughan Davies, is to blur the lines between the campus, the neighborhood, and the natural bounty that embraces them. “Everything on the ground level had to reflect this ‘Park to Peak’ ethos with a park-like environment that makes you realize you’re in this very special place in San Francisco,” Davies says. The guidelines for the new buildings also call for expansive, publicly accessible roof terraces that enjoy broad views of Mount Sutro and San Francisco’s skyline. “It’s transforming the campus with new hospital and research buildings and a huge interface with the community to get it right,” Brand says, noting the effect will resemble an Italian hill town, with the buildings gradually stepped up toward Mount Sutro via placemaking plazas and courtyards.

Kuwait University Hospital’s main student entry is a nodal point along an underground concourse, which connects more than a dozen buildings and allows students, faculty, and staff to traverse the new health-sciences campus protected from the heat in a setting with plentiful daylight. It also abuts a sunken garden. Renderings © Perkins Eastman

International Affairs

The firm’s experts are now applying their ideas to the new University of Kuwait campus being developed on the outskirts of Kuwait City—a rare opportunity to integrate medical, research, and academic buildings from scratch. Key to the plan is a pedestrian network that speaks to the area’s extreme climate, where summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. “We conceptualized the entire campus around a wadi, a dry riverbed. The buildings all interface with it, with parking either underground or on the periphery,” Brand says. It is an entirely walkable environment, he adds, “where everything flows together as a campus” along its metaphorical riverbed. The Oasis anchors the campus’s five medical colleges, student center, and learning resource center. The research center, hospital, and recreation center branch off to frame an additional green space called The Grove.

A diagram of the University of Kuwait identifies the campus buildings and uses.

To help people avoid the heat, the design calls for an air-conditioned underground concourse, referred to as the garden level, where students, staff, and visitors can access the campus’s main buildings. The concourse features glass-enclosed sunken gardens, which bring natural light into this subterranean space. It also features a Commons with a café, retail outlets, banks, and other amenities. Additionally, a third-floor “rampart” offers both indoor and outdoor walkways between the university’s five medical-college buildings, giving students and professors access to meeting spaces, gathering areas, and the buildings’ green roofs with broad vistas. “It’s all about creating paths to connect people to places—a bench, a small meeting room, or a larger conference area,” Co-Managing Principal Jason Abbey says. “That’s how we enrich and enliven the connective tissue of the campus.”

Expanding the Network

As healthcare delivery models have evolved from single, isolated structures to networks that spread out across cities and regions, Perkins Eastman has leveraged its diverse, multidisciplinary talent and global studio network to achieve the best outcomes for its clients. “These master plans recognize a crucial factor that goes beyond healthcare, research, and academics,” Bertsch says. “It’s about the quality of experience. People have choices, and they’re demanding that the environment meets the level of the services that the institution delivers.” It is a complex challenge whose benefits carry a multiplier effect, Brand notes, because repositioning on a large scale tends to bring everything else along with it. “If you define the campus characteristics that make it a good neighbor, then the neighborhood around you also rises to the occasion beyond your campus perimeter. You’ve now made this integrated community that’s even better.” N

A rendering of the University of Kuwait’s health-sciences campus illustrates the central Grove connecting its complex of medical colleges to the left and the main hospital at right.