In the stressful process of cancer treatment, sometimes peace and hope are all that patients have to cling to.
With those guiding principles in mind, the Building Team for the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, Maine, set out to redefine cancer care with a focus on improving the patient experience.
Set on the lush, rolling hills of a former golf course in the state's capital city, the 55,000-sf facility consolidates the cancer care staff and services from MaineGeneral Health System hospitals in Augusta and Waterville into a warm, inviting facility that feels more like a lodge than a medical treatment center, with wood timber entrance canopies, stacked stone piers, and weathered copper roofing and siding.
Inside, abundant daylight and the use of natural materials like stone walls, cork flooring, and wood ceilings reinforce a connection with nature and create a supportive, calming atmosphere for cancer treatment.
The design is the result of a collaborative process among the administrative and medical staffs, patients, the hospital minister, and the architectural team of TRO Jung|Brannen, Boston, and SMRT Inc., Portland, Maine.
This extended Building Team developed the basic principles of the cancer center during a three-day workshop session facilitated by IDEO, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based consulting firm that specializes in developing human-centered buildings. IDEO consultants encouraged the team to look outside the typical healthcare setting to gain a broader perspective on the “customer” experience. The group visited various consumer venues, including airports, spas, retail stores, and bed-and-breakfasts, to come up with five key patient-centered design principles:
Choice—With cancer patients often feeling their lives are out of control, the team wanted to offer a variety of choices for patients who were waiting for radiation or medical oncology. These include the option of private interior areas without a window, group space with a fish tank for visual distraction, outdoor view space, and outdoor space with a balcony area. All spaces accommodate families.
Stress relief—The design team set out to create a peaceful, calming environment with views from almost every space and features like a meditation room, fireplaces, a piano, artwork, and an integrative medicine room with a message table.
Wellness—The facility is stocked with “look-good, feel-good” items such as wigs and prostheses. Walking trails and gardens provide a tranquil place for patients to stretch their legs and visit with family members. They can grab a healthy bite to eat in the café and receive dietary counseling in the center's cooking demonstration kitchen.
Patient convenience—To make treatment logistically easier on the patient and family, the design team created multi-specialty clinic space and diagnostic facilities that bring together all specialists who collaboratively plan the patient's treatment program.
Environmentally sustainable—Designed to meet LEED Silver certification, the facility incorporates sustainable materials like cork flooring and was built using environmentally friendly construction practices.
Commenting on the success of the project, a cancer patient said it best at the late-2007 opening ceremony for the center: “This building is the true meaning of hope.” —Dave Barista, Managing Editor
Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, MaineGeneral Health
Submitting firm: TRO Jung|Brannen (architect, MEP engineer)
Owner: MaineGeneral Health
Architect of record, structural engineer: SMRT Inc.
General contractor: H.P. Cummings Construction