The first thing you notice when you drive up to Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center is the huge, delicately latticed “Lantern of Hope” anchoring the top north corner of the building. Four stories high, the aluminum-clad feature covers a white fabric scrim. At night, as our tour guide explained during this facility tour at the 2012 HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference, the lantern is illuminated with colors corresponding to different cancer awareness groups.

Inside, light and color remain a strong focus. Jocelyn Stroupe, principal of Cannon Design (which designed the project), explained that the team agreed it was important for the new facility to reflect its desert location. Thus, the first floor features an earthy, rust-colored palette; the second floor relies on green landscape hues; and the third floor is awash in sky-blue tones. Graphics and artwork depicting local flora, including the palo verde tree, show up throughout the space. In the radiation oncology clinic, patients enter the linear accelerator vault via a tranquil corridor lined on both sides with warm wood and accentuated with backlit photo panels featuring a sunny Arizona vista.

The importance of the outdoors goes beyond graphic representations on the walls—a central courtyard, visible through huge walls of windows in the lobby and elsewhere in the building, is modeled after a Japanese Zen garden with rocks, water features, an area for quiet contemplation, and a winding path representing the cancer patient’s journey of hope. Balconies and terraces are readily accessible on all floors for family members and staff, and on the third floor, patients can even choose to undergo infusion treatments in the open air on a spacious, covered balcony.

The center opened to patients in late 2011. The building we toured is Phase 1 of a proposed three-phase project; Phase 2, scheduled to start construction this coming January, would add another 100,000 square feet and is anticipated to be complete in April 2014.