Project category: New construction (completed January 2007)

Chief administrator: Greg Pivirotto, CEO, University Medical Center Corporation, (520) 694-6501

Firm: CO Architects, (323) 525-0500

Design team: Stephen Yundt, AIA, ACHA, Principal-in-Charge; James Simeo, AIA, Project Architect; Dennis McFadden, AIA, Design Principal (CO Architects); Christy Ten Eyck, Landscape Architect (Ten Eyck Landscape Architects); Ron Rendina, Project Director (DPR Construction); Lynn Harris, Project Manager (University Medical Center)

Photography: © Robert Canfield Photography

Total building area (sq. ft.): 82,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $261

Total construction cost (excluding land): $21,435,000

The rugged natural beauty of Tucson, Arizona, has driven the design of a new outpatient cancer center for University Medical Center (UMC). Here, the science and art of healing have converged; medicine and technology are integrated with a healing environment closely linked to nature.

The cancer center provides outpatient exam and infusion treatment services to patients in a convenient, accessible facility. The cancer center is the first phase on a 17-acre site that will be developed incrementally to house other ambulatory services of the medical center.

In addition to strongly relating the cancer center to its environment and community, the design is also driven by an effort to deinstitutionalize the facility—removing it from an acute care hospital setting, reducing the scale, and providing access to gardens, trees, and mountain views. Patients have stated, “The whole setting is relaxing and soothing,” “You come here and it feels like home,” and, “I like the overall inhospitableness of it.”

Because architecture and nature are closely integrated through plentiful daylight, trellised terraces, and vistas to the beautiful mountain ranges beyond, nature becomes a vital element in the healing process. A sense of beauty and calm is provided by the healing gardens. “The healing gardens are an integral part of the new center and provide an atmosphere that’s conducive to an outstanding quality of life—a setting in which cancer patients can feel they have a great chance of being cured,” says Cancer Center Director David Alperts, MD, PhD.

The healing gardens replicate elements of the native landscape and are organized around a creek bed (arroyo) that runs through the site—a desert “wash” which will supply the garden’s native trees, plants, and flowers with water. All of the exam and infusion treatment spaces are provided with a window that looks out to the gardens.

All elements of the building’s design relate to the natural landscape. Exterior and interior finishes are natural materials or materials made from natural products, such as stone and wood. Trellises and covered entries provide shade. The color palette is neutral earth tones. Interior spaces are washed with soft, indirect light.

UMC believes that this is not just a new building but a new beginning in the treatment of cancer patients. “Our amazing physicians, our caring nurses, the spectacular facilities, the gardens—they make it a healing place full of hope,” says Greg Pivirotto, CEO.