Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center wanted to bring cancer treatment and care closer to its patients in Montvale, N.J. The ideal location was found in a former corporate office building; however, the structural system of the 145,000-square-foot building was insufficient to support the planned program, which includes infusion, radiology, radiation oncology, lymphedema, blood draw, a clinical lab, and pharmacies.

For example, the structural columns were located in a haphazard arrangement, while the building itself needed reinforcement throughout. Undeterred, the project team, including EwingCole, utilized strategic column enclosures, daylighting strategies, and clinical planning approaches to deliver Memorial Sloan Kettering Bergen, which opened in July 2018.

The new cancer center was named winner in the Ambulatory—Cancer Center category and Best of Competition in the International Interior Design Association’s 2018 Healthcare Design Awards.

To address the structural challenges, the design team utilized the irregularity of the building to locate the public and gathering spaces, which could be more fluid, in a central hub. Next, the clinical spaces, which needed a more traditional grid, were located on the arms of the Y-shaped building.

“The openness [in the center] creates easier wayfinding, ensures daylight would permeate the central core, and allows views to the exterior from all the areas,” says Mary Frazier, managing principal at EwingCole (New York).

The existing columns were transformed into a striking design feature by encasing them in glass fiber reinforced gypsum in organic shapes, with larger enclosures used to conceal columns that were close to each other. Custom ceilings further complement the space. “They are the most daring and unusual aspect of the space, which when combined, give the space an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel,” Frazier says.

Unexpected approaches were also taken in the corridors, which include boutique-style seating nooks and family-sized tables with residential accessories and board games, complemented by vibrant colors, textures, and artwork. “The design supports the idea of applying a hospitality concept to a healthcare facility and creating a flexible and emotionally satisfying space,” says Lyudmyla Matyushko, interior designer at EwingCole.

Efforts were also made to give patients and families a sense of choice within the clinical setting, including private and public waiting areas. Within the infusion rooms, patients can adjust the lighting and temperature as well as access the internet, order food, or call for assistance. “As their care progresses, we want to provide a variety of spaces for them to experience, allowing them to feel a progression and/or a change in their experience over time,” Frazier says.

Competition juror Michelle Clark, senior associate at Rees Associates (Dallas), noted that MSK Bergen illustrates a cohesion of planning, interior design, lighting, and furnishings. “The challenge of the building type and the density of the program make this project solution even more special,” she said in a release.


2018 IIDA Healthcare Design Awards category winners:

Ambulatory—Cancer Center

  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Bergen, Montvale, N.J.

Firm: EwingCole, Philadelphia


Ambulatory—Specialty Clinic

  • Project: Spira Care Centers, Shawnee, Kan.

Firm: Helix Architecture + Design, Kansas City, Mo.


Ambulatory—Urgent Care Center

  • Project: Cedars-Sinai, Playa Vista Physician Office & Urgent Care, Playa Vista, Calif.

Firm: ZGF Architects LLP, Los Angeles


Hospitals—Academic/Teaching Hospitals

  • Project: Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), Montréal

Firms: CannonDesign in association with NEUF Architect(e)s



  • Project: University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Iowa City, Iowa

Firms: CBRE Heery, architect of record, Iowa City, Iowa; Foster and Partners, design architect (exterior), London; ZGF, integrated environment design, Seattle

  • Project: The Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation Molecular Imaging Center, Washington, D.C.

Firms: HGA, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., offices


Extended Care and Assisted Living Facilities—Long-term Care Category Award Winner

  • Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay, Sarasota, Fla.

Firm: THW Design, Atlanta


Transformation & Innovation

  • Project: The Greater Accra Regional Hospital at Ridge, Accra, Ghana, West Africa

Firms: Perkins+Will, Atlanta and Miami offices