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Reopened: Medical Center Way

October 20, 2010

Medical Center Way is open again. This is the lovely mountain road that goes through Sutro Forest, connecting the UCSF Aldea student housing to Parnassus (and is the shortest route from Forest Knolls to Stanyan). I’ve heard it called the prettiest road in San Francisco, and people have told me they take that route just for its beauty. Certainly I’ve trundled down the half-mile stretch between Johnstone and the dog-leg above Parnassus  at 15-20 mph, taking in the splendour of the trees and the scent of eucalyptus. It’s looking shorn now; a lot of the understory growth has been cut back, and some of the trees are gone. But even if not the lush wild place it was before, it’s still lovely.

A spaceship in the forest?

It had been closed for nearly a year, for the construction of UCSF’s stem cell research building (or rather, The Center for Integrative Medicine). That building looked amazing in the drawings, and fantastic from Golden Gate Park: like a spaceship that had landed in the forest. And someone else, gazing at the building said, “It looks like it’s been CGI’d into the forest.” (If anyone has a better picture, please send it! This really doesn’t do it justice. ETA: Thanks… this is a lot better.)

Close up, not so much. Snaking along the lower reaches of Medical Center Way, behind the hospital on Parnassus, it’s sheathed in what looks like aluminum siding. “Like a trailer abandoned by the roadside,” sniffed my companion. It does have a rather boxy, automotive appearance, like an RV or a railroad car. This is a pity, because the actual structure has a lot of interest.


That’s visible from the loading dock side, which isn’t technically a public access area. The box curves along the road, and it’s balanced on a network of struts that isolate it from its base in case of an earthquake. With the tall trees behind and beside it, it looks somewhat surreal.

[ETA 2: Here’s another article on the building, with a lot of architectural details. I notice they’ve used our spaceship metaphor. The sincerest form of flattery! And this article is from UCSF itself.]

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