Urban Wildlife Preserve

Urban Wildlife Preserve

University of California, Davis Medical Center

Sacramento, California


Project Description

The award winning open space is a 4.3-acre Urban Wildlife Preserve (UWP) designed as a healing garden, outdoor classroom, and natural habitat for a university medical center. The UC Davis Medical Campus located in Sacramento California is a major urban medical facility with 455 bed patients, daily traffic of 1833 inpatients, 2,420 academic and volunteer faculty, 315 medical students, and some 6,500 staff. The UWP project was required as mitigation as a major expansion of the medical school campus. The first 1.8-acre phase was completed in 1996 for $385,000.

The final design plan for the UWP divides the site into four quadrants: an entry garden, a cultural 'ruin' area, a habitat pond and an outdoor education area for Marian Anderson School. The north end of the site is the Preserve's main entry with formal landscaping that transitions from the adjacent buildings to a meditative garden space centered on a fountain. A future phase will include a 'ruin' area to honor the site's cultural history by maintaining the arch colonnade of the former California State Fairgrounds stable building. Lawns and gardens surrounding the arches will serve as a ceremonial gathering place for UCDMC staff, patients, community members and school children. A future habitat pond is designed as a permanent water source for seasonal wildlife. An arroyo of rocks and gravel connect the pond to the main entry and accommodate storm water runoff in the winter months. (Source Inquiry by Design)

Project Background

In 1996 Mark Francis and the Center for Design Research were asked by Frank Logue, Director of the UCDMC, to prepare the program, conceptual design and evaluation of this urban open space. Landscape architecture undergraduate and community development graduate students were hired to do site analysis, participatory design with staff and nearby elementary school students and teachers and UCDMC staff. After construction was complete, the CDR team conducted an extensive post occupancy evaluation of the project including recommendations for management and redesign.


University of California, Davis Medical Center

Project Team

Mark Francis, FASLA, Project Manager and Landscape Architect with Caru Bowns, PhD and HLA Group, Sacramento


Merit Award, Research. Professional Awards Program, American Society of Landscape Architects, 1999.

Publications featuring project

John Zeisel, Inquiry by Design. Norton. 2006.

Caru Bowns and Mark Francis. Urban Wildlife Preserve Post Occupancy Evaluation. University of California Davis Medical Center. Davis: CDR. October 1998.