Designing Belgium’s leading oncology centre was a beautiful but complex assignment. First, we needed to consider the interests and needs of vulnerable patients battling severe cancer. At the same time, however, we were faced with numerous practical requirements, such as blending the new building in with the university campus and connecting it to the existing hospital. And then there were the many different functions and users that the space would have to accommodate, from specialists and nurses to students, researchers and support staff.
The UZ Leuven Oncology Centre is many patients’ last hope. Here, everything is devoted to providing exceptionally high-quality treatment. We started by asking: What does a cancer diagnosis mean? How does one experience it? And what kind of environment fits in with that? For patients with such a serious illness, recovery is the top priority, and they want a safe, comfortable place to be while undergoing treatment. Therefore, the rooms have more square metres than average, making the layout more flexible and allowing patients to personalize their space.
Patients also experience their time in the centre as an expulsion from society, and they long to return. That return, however, is a slow, gradual process. This is reflected in the design. When patients leave their room with a view, they enter a quiet, comfortable common room for a limited number of people and a maximum of six adjoining patient rooms. As they move further into the hospital, they are automatically surrounded by more people. All central rooms offer a view to the outside, towards the city or the surrounding countryside. Long-stay accommodations are largely closed to the inside for maximum privacy and open to the outside.
The oncology centre will soon house numerous departments, such as a pharmacological research department and the radiation areas. Quarantine rooms will also be needed for leukaemia treatment, for example. Technology, electricity and air facilities are located at the bottom and top of the building. Throughout the building, the presence of natural materials and ample light provide peace and quiet. There are wood floors, neutral walls and as much outside view as possible through the large windows.
Despite the limited building volume, we achieved a good balance between the needs and wishes of a very diverse group of users. Our client was very satisfied.