Planning for Innovation and Discovery

Focus Area Research Campuses

Rendering of students on a common lawn between academic medical campus buildings.

Advancing academic research and collaboration through site planning and design

In a world where change is accelerating, and challenges seem to keep pace, providing the places for true discovery and innovation is increasingly important. Whether for private industry, public universities, or national research labs, ensuring a setting that supports innovation and the people who make that happen is ever more important.

The cities and campuses where innovation thrives share characteristics that make them so successful:

  • Site plans and arrangements of buildings that encourage engagement
  • Flexible plans that can adapt rapidly to new technologies and facilities
  • Collaborative spaces – indoors, outdoors and virtual – for spontaneous interaction
  • Environments that support not only researchers and faculty but also encourage engagement with the broader community.

Complex projects like these benefit from our integrated disciplines of urban and campus planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and strategic consulting. We believe our best-designed projects are a result of a high level of collaboration between all stakeholders on a project: clients, consultants, contractors, governmental agencies and community groups.


  • Academic
  • Planning / Urban Design

Creating communities through collaboration

Academic medical centers such as the University of California San Francisco are leading innovative research to solve worldwide health challenges. Enabling this critical research and clinical care are all about empowering discovery and collaboration. Our work over many years with the various medical campuses of the University of California San Francisco have been focused around optimizing these sites to support the research, education and clinical care priorities of this premier institution.

Aerial rendering of the planned academic medical center in San Francisco's Mission Bay community.
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In our work with the Mission Bay campus, we provided the latest master plan to guide their continuing robust expansion with new research facilities while integrating badly needed student housing, all in a compact and walkable environment. Our evaluation of multiple sites within this district also informed their strategic acquisition activities and has led to expansion of the campus footprint and has supported the emergence and continuing growth of the area as one of the most vital biotech hubs in the Bay Area.

Setting the stage for innovation

Partnerships to advance critical research involving universities, government agencies and the private sector are common but finding ways to enhance collaboration through co-location is challenging. The Texas A&M University RELLIS research campus provides a vast opportunity to achieve these goals on 1,000 acres.

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Located on a former airfield, the RELLIS site was already host to a small but diverse group of low-key research endeavors. A planned collaboration between Texas A&M University and a nearby community college escalated into an ambition to transform the site into a world-class research campus. Creating a “heart”, or place to bring together all campus occupants, was a primary goal. A pedestrian-oriented zone with user amenities is located with proximity to the educational facilities.

Elevated from undeveloped site to world class research facility

Long a quiet off-campus site belonging to UC Berkeley, the Richmond Field Station hosted small research projects on its largely undeveloped site at the edge of San Francisco Bay. A joint effort was undertaken by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) and the UC Berkeley to transform the site into a world-class research campus accommodating endeavors as diverse as biotech research and particle accelerators.

“Collaboration” was the overriding goal of the LBNL researchers who participated in the visioning process. The plan envisions a campus that protects the site’s important natural biological resources while accommodating over 5 million gsf of research and support space. It also provides for high density facilities arrayed along a “collaborative Main Street”, a spine linking all facilities and providing varied types of places in support of spontaneous engagement.


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