MIDDLETOWN, N.J. – The dramatic transformation of a vacant 1980’s suburban office building into a world-class cancer treatment center is giving Central and Southern New Jerseyans a new option for care closer to home.
Designed by Perkins+Will, Memorial Sloan Kettering Monmouth blends Evidence-Based Design principles, such as views to nature and abundant natural light, with the state-of-the-art cancer care that patients have come to expect from MSK. It is a radical makeover from a drab and dreary corporate setting to a warm, soothing and even uplifting experience for cancer patients when they need it the most.
Evidence-Based Design for healing
What started as a 400,000-square-foot rectilinear office building with little to no natural light at its core, a private office-lined perimeter that obstructed shared views to the outdoors and generally poor accessibility is now a light-filled, welcoming space with undulating interior walkways and views to nature around almost every turn. This is important, as a growing body of research shows that biophilic design, or design that connects users of the built environment with nature, improves healing.
To usher in natural light and provide panoramic views to the outdoors, Perkins+Will cut into the existing office building and created a large, daylit courtyard. The designers then created a series of glass-enclosed pedestrian bridges that cross the courtyard; one such bridge is the center’s main entrance, which follows the east-to-west arc of the sun to maximize daylight exposure. Inside, office spaces along the window-lined perimeter of the building were removed to create a seamless glass wall and pedestrian corridor overlooking a wooded ravine.
Additionally, each of the center’s 18 infusion therapy rooms faces a window to the outdoors, providing a direct view to nature. This is a rare bonus for patients who typically undergo hours of chemotherapy in windowless interior spaces, sometimes even underground.
The comforts of home, hospitality
The interior design of MSK Monmouth also draws on elements of hospitality to ensure the comfort of patients and their families at every phase of cancer treatment. The traditional (and often dreaded) waiting room has been replaced by a series of “micro experiences:” welcoming parlors, dens with lounge chairs and TVs and libraries with stocked bookshelves and iPad bars. Peppered throughout the public areas, these spaces provide room for everything from respite, reflection and family gatherings to reading, channel surfing or browsing the internet.
Even the colors and textures of the furniture, fixtures, flooring and other interior materials—from patient changing rooms and exam rooms to the micro experiences—evoke a sense of calm, earthiness and tranquility to promote relaxation and ease anxiety. Televisions, Wi-Fi connectivity and adjustable lighting and temperature controls in each of the infusion rooms give patients a bit of added comfort.
Three distinct entries to MSK Monmouth also help eliminate the sense of frenzy and hurriedness that patients often experience in busy healthcare settings. One entry accommodates general use, another entry serves daily radiology and oncology patients and the third entry is dedicated to caregivers, practitioners and other hospital staff. This sequencing ensures that patients are always warmly received upon entering the facility, that staff is able to get to and from their destinations without interruption and that foot traffic in all areas of the facility flows efficiently.
The general contractor for the project was Turner Construction.