Beyond programming decisions, the project team on the new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Fla., devoted a lot of time to creating an interior environment that’s calming and welcoming. Leigh Walker, senior interior designer with FreemanWhite, a Haskell Company (Charlotte, N.C.), which provided interior design services on the project, found herself drawing on personal experience in that regard. She received a cancer diagnosis about six months before starting work on the project.

“That experience took my thinking about what we were doing within the center, and why, to a whole new level,” Walker says. “I found myself thinking, well, I had this experience, and this is how I felt, and here’s how that could possibly be reflected in the design.”

For example, she noted that because a cancer diagnosis and treatment is a stressful experience, “coming into a place that’s loud and full of bright colors can elevate people’s blood pressure, which is not supportive of a healing environment. As a result, we designed around a neutral color palette, allowing the uplifting artwork that was installed throughout the center to be the focal point.”

The 600-plus pieces of artwork, both within the facility and on its grounds, were selected by an art advisory committee and go beyond being mere décor. Such works—including sculptor Konstantin Dimopolous’ set of 28-foot-tall carbon fiber rods painted in a bright red (shown above), artist Enid Blechman’s wallcoverings consisting of hand-painted, multicolored microscope slides, and sculptor Linda Howard’s DNA-inspired metal sculptures—serve as a source of comfort and a positive distraction to help reduce anxiety and stress.

To make sure the artwork had that intended impact, the committee responsible for commissioning it met during the pre-planning for the building to decide specific placements and work with the artists to make sure their work is compatible with the center’s aesthetic. “Each one of the artists came to the site, and we spent time with them going through the 3-D models, how it’s oriented, and what kind of materials were going to be used,” says Keith Tickell, vice president of strategic assets/real estate for Baptist Health.

Walker says the use of art is one of several ways that hospitality design influenced the cancer center’s look and feel. “The Baptist MD Anderson team didn’t want the patients to feel like they are walking into an outpatient version of a hospital, but rather like they’re in a comfortable space with hotel-like attributes.”–Matthew Hall, freelance writer

For an in-depth look at the new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, read “Speaking Volumes.”