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A Different Kind Of Care

The new generation of world leading cancer research and patient care hubs connect people with their urban settings

The Oak Cancer Centre, Royal Marsden Hospital, London carefully addresses physical health and emotional wellbeing

Ged Couser

Paterson Christie Cancer Research Centre, Manchester; a world-class transformational research facility

The pace of scientific research in the development of new cancer treatments is astonishing. Precision medicines are dramatically improving survival rates, which have doubled since 1970. Immuno‐oncology therapies are empowering the immune system to recognise and react to tumour cells and biomarker guided therapies are targeting mutations at a molecular level. These developments are, in effect, creating a completely personalised approach to treatment, confronting the disease at an individual and systemic level.

In parallel with these developments, new cancer treatment centres predicated on bespoke care are opening across the UK. They provide adaptable spaces for treatment in environments which can be personalised, from social or solitary, where individual flexible chemotherapy bays are incorporated into departmental layouts and 100% single bedrooms are increasingly the norm. Patient choice is becoming more and more important.

The concept of ‘team science’ in research and treatment is also advancing, whereby clinicians and scientists work together to develop new thinking and fresh approaches to cancer treatment. We, as designers, are being challenged to build spaces and places that facilitate that process and we continue to collaborate, to learn and evolve our thinking in order to remain at the forefront of cancer research and treatment design. This new thinking is embodied in the Cancer Care Hub where we are developing designs for an outpatient and research facility at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. We have just achieved planning permission for the Paterson Christie Cancer Research Centre in Manchester, recently completed the Specialist Treatment Waterfall House in Birmingham and the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is currently on site.

The Clatterbridge NHS Trust realised a number of years ago that they needed to be in the centre of Liverpool adjacent to the new Royal Hospital and next to the university, in the emerging Knowledge Quarter. They wished to be the city’s first dedicated cancer hospital. The site is in a restricted urban context, but on demolition of the existing Royal Hospital, will be developed into a new beautifully landscaped urban public space with car parking below. The building has a stepped plan with external landscaped terraces at each level for patients’ enjoyment. This also allows daylight to permeate the plan, penetrating deep into the radiotherapy waiting area at semibasement level which is adjacent to a wintergarden lined with natural stone gabions, over which the building cantilevers.

The chemotherapy department is at the penultimate level of the building, situated below the production pharmacy and drugs trials unit. An open plan space with stunning views across the city, every patient has a dedicated treatment bay, sequestered from each other by a purpose designed screen complete with sockets and Wi-Fi connection, offering the choice to maintain privacy or interact with other patients. Family and friends accompanying a patient for treatment are welcome to use the central breakout area to relax and take time out.

The unitised façade reflects the cutting-edge cancer treatment and drug trial research taking place within the building. The Cancer Centre’s striking form and curving prow has already prompted its nickname - The Liner - in Liverpool, that famous maritime city.

Clatterbridge Cancer Centre; the stepped form and external terraces maximise daylight and views
Clatterbridge Cancer Centre; the stepped form and external terraces maximise daylight and views
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