Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, Pei Partnership Architects
Address: 757 Westwood Plaza | LOS ANGELES-CALIFORNIA | United States
Latitude/Longitude: 34.0695, -118.445

The Northridge Earthquake in 1994 caused extensive structural damage to the UCLA Center for Health Sciences, leaving portions in need of replacement. The University seized the opportunity to create the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a medical facility designed to meet the evolving needs of 21st-century patient care, new medical technologies and teaching. Pei Partnership Architects worked with executive architect, Perkins+Will and consulting architect, RBB Architects to create a building that defines the gateway to the UCLA Center for Health Sciences.


The medical center’s design was driven by the desire to scale the building exterior to the greater UCLA campus and maximize the amount of natural lighting. The one million-plus square foot, 10-story structure (eight above ground) Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is, literally, a pillar of strength. Designed to withstand and remain functional following a greater than 8 magnitude earthquake, it is one of the first total replacement hospitals in California to meet the latest seismic code.


A 26,000-ton structural web of steel, uniquely sized and shaped beams weighing 20 to 25 tons each provide the framework. An individual beam measures 20-feet long by four-feet deep and the steel columns encasing these beams measure two-feet square and weigh more than 900 pounds per foot.

The hospital’s two major entrances are marked by monumental canopies. One to the east faces Westwood Boulevard and the campus, and to the west, Gayley Avenue and the Westwood residential community. A clear break on the third floor helps the hospital to relate to its low-rise neighbors. Above, the massing shifts into a cluster of triangular and three quarter-circle towers that house individual nursing pods and intensive care units. The towers break down the architectural mass while creating a unique image for the hospital. Sunscreens and vertical notches carved into the towers further help to reduce apparent bulk. Between the towers rooftop terraces are specially landscaped for different therapeutic uses.

Current hospital design

In keeping with current hospital design, all 520 patient rooms are private, but are oversized enough to allow unrestricted three-sided access to the patient at all times. Typical rooms are designed to allow easy conversion into intensive care units with unrestricted views for optimum patient monitoring. To adapt to the changing needs of healthcare over the next century, the design team emphasized openness and flexibility, creating a welcoming face to the campus and the neighborhood. The first three floors form a massive base that unifies the design. Above, the architects incorporated four towers to break up the building’s mass while creating a unique image for the hospital. Three quarter-rounded towers house patient rooms and individual nursing pods. A triangular tower houses Intensive Care Units. The towers are staggered so windows do not look directly in on each other, allowing light to spill in from all sides and open up views. Welcoming features such as carpeting, fountains, terraces and activity areas combine to create a people-friendly setting that promotes healing and rest. The operating rooms at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center are the most technologically advanced in the world, using the latest in audiovisual communications, diagnostics, robotics and imaging systems to efficiently and effectively tackle even the most complicated surgical procedures.

The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center offers an efficient, warm and welcoming environment for patients, visitors and staff, which is conveyed in every aspect of the design, from the thoughtful application of building materials and the clear disposition of parts, to the meticulous detailing of public spaces and the widespread integration of natural light, landscaping and outdoor views. The medical center has been designed as an active component of the healing process. The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center opened to the public in June 2008.

Contributed by Pei Partnership Architects

⇒ Architecture Guide to LOS ANGELES-CALIFORNIA