The Tata Medical Centre Cancer Hospital opened in 2011, in Rajarhat, Kolkata, India, but locals tell the design team it looks like the facility has always been there. “It has a sense of place,” says Jayashri Deshmukh, senior associate, Cannon Design (Boston), “which for a design firm couldn’t be a higher compliment.”

Cannon Design served as design architect on the project and Tata Consulting Engineers (Mumbai, India) was the architect of record.

That sense of familiarity begins at the exterior through the use of local materials, such as regionally sourced sandstone on the façade, and a large arrival gate constructed of concrete pillars with a pergola on top. Rather than one massive medical facility, it’s a series of buildings for housing public and private patient wards, as well as research, administrative, and training facilities.

“So many modern healthcare facilities in India are very imposing edifices that can be almost hostile and disorienting,” says Mark Erdly, principal, Cannon Design. “This one was consciously thought of as being open, transparent, and welcoming in a way to draw family in and make everyone feel comfortable.”

Jurors for Healthcare Design’s Architectural and Interior Design Showcase appreciated the building planning and interconnected gardens as well as the use of local materials and craftsmanship that “break down the barrier of cancer care and treatment,” said one juror. Those efforts earned the facility a Citation of Merit.

To account for the fact that many family members arrive with patients and stay to become part of their care teams, designers enlarged the waiting rooms and added multiple terraces where patients and families can gather. Built-in benches in the public patient wards accommodate visitors who might stay for a few hours or even overnight. At the center of facility is a series of gardens and a grand courtyard that work together to connect the campus and draw staff, patients, and caregivers alike.

The massing and architecture take into account variations in the region’s weather and climate conditions, too. For example, the buildings are oriented to capture prevailing winds and bring fresh air into some of the waiting and patient areas. A double-walled system akin to a jali screen protects the south and west sides of the building from the elements, and windows are deeply recessed to reduce glare as well as protect them during rain storms.

While environmental factors, such as monsoon season, presented one set of design challenges, there were also obstacles with sourcing materials. “We couldn’t assume that a sample delivered to us during the design phase would be available three years later when the project was under construction,” Deshmukh says.

So the project team, which included Indian partners, invested time visiting suppliers as well as local quarries to secure stone for the project. For all the other pieces, including granite and tile, detailed samples were kept onsite for the contractor, who could compare them to actual deliveries to ensure they met the design standards.

The timeline for the project spanned from 2006 to 2011. “Much of the construction is hand-crafted, so it ends up being beautiful, but it takes so much longer,” Erdly says.

For more on the 2013 Healthcare Design Architectural and Interior Design Showcase Citation of Merit winners and other Showcase coverage, see: