During the time that John Cooper was jointly leading health care at Anshen and Allen in London, three of the major cancer centres in the UK were designed in the studio. This gave him and other members of our team invaluable experience in understanding the principles and the detailed technical requirements of designing for cancer care. This knowledge allows us to engage with clients and end users at every stage of the design process and continue to explore opportunities for innovative design.
The design of cancer centres balances science – the functional demands of highly specific technical spaces – with care -the absolute need for a healing environment. The design of chemo or radio therapy units must provide the patient with the confidence that the latest technologies and therapies are being intelligently applied. Care can be communicated by a building which expertly uses its form, landscape and the quality of light to create an environment which is self- evidently at the patient’s disposal. Care and treatment combine in a building which is well planned and provides an excellent workplace and therefore a safe and kind patient environment.
Radio and chemo therapies are essentially daycase treatments whether administered from a hub or spoke and as a consequence cancer centres are buildings to which many patients will return during a course of treatment. They need not reveal themselves fully on a first visit. We aim to create a number of different spaces, internally and externally, which can provide privacy, communality, contemplation, distraction or pleasure.
On the Leeds Oncology project the Trust’s Arts co-ordinator commissioned a play, to distil the experiences of over three hundred patients into a single and very powerful briefing document. The voices kept returning to the patients’ needs to retain a connection to the world which they have left – open the window, smell the air and feel the wind on their face. Our designs respond by using gardens or terraces to draw patients and staff outside and creating differing qualities of natural light to eliminate any sense of ‘hospital land’.
The larger cancer centres bring together research, education and healthcare. Translational research is itself translating into a more patient centred process, where research, education and treatment converge within a more integrated setting within the hospital and potentially the health centre. Designing for this level of interaction is essential.