With a goal to further its mission to help patients be well, get well, and stay well, Virtua Health (Marlton, N.J.) turned to Francis Cauffman Architects (FCA; Philadelphia) to design a new cancer center. The challenge was that it required rezoning and repurposing a former 66,000-square-foot supermarket that sits adjacent to Virtua’s Health and Wellness Center in Moorestown, N.J. The new 44,150-square-foot Virtua Samson Cancer Center, which opened in October 2018, features radiation oncology, an infusion treatment suite, and administrative offices, with shelled space for a future third-party infusion practice. A partnering ambulatory surgical practice is housed in the remaining 21,850 square feet of the building.

FCA redesigned the space to promote a sense of hope, serenity, and healing by maximizing the existing high ceilings and large windows and adding vibrant artwork. Skylights were installed above the main concourse to provide diffused, controlled light to ease the distance of the long hallway, which runs through the center of the building’s footprint. The skylights also provide access to natural light, which improves the patient experience.

However, the design is also mindful of the fact that patients may be more sensitive to sunlight as a result of infusion therapy. For example, to reduce exposure to direct sunlight in the infusion bays, the treatment rooms are strategically placed along the exterior of the building, facing east and looking out onto a new healing garden.

To address the high ceilings, which wouldn’t provide the necessary acoustical privacy needed in patient rooms, FCA incorporated a substructure to allow the ceiling and lighting to be suspended and minimize the need to construct full-height walls.

From outside the building, the main concourse is visible through a full-height glass opening that allows visitors to orient themselves before they enter. The glass opening also serves as a visual connection between the exterior and public thoroughfare on the interior.

Also on the exterior, designers wanted to portray a symbol of hope for patients and visitors alike by creating a monumental “white box” entry comprising semi-opaque white panels. The glowing white structure is designed with the hope that each appointment and transition through the box will be positive.

Aran McCarthy, AIA, NCARB, is principal, healthcare, at Francis Cauffman Architects (Philadelphia). He can be reached at amccarthy@fcarchitects.

Project details:
Facility name: Virtua Samson Cancer Center
Location: Moorestown, N.J.
Completion date: October 2018
Owner: Virtua Health 
Total building area: 40,150 sq. ft.
Total construction cost: $18.3 million
Cost/sq. ft.: $456
Architecture firm: Francis Cauffman Architects 
Interior design: Francis Cauffman Architects 
Contracting: Aegis Property Group
Engineering: BR+A (MEP), O’Donnell & Naccarato (structural)
Construction: P. Agnes