What you don’t know about the New Pediatric Cancer Center at the SJD

Lo que no sabes del nuevo Pediatric Cancer Center en el SJD

We are aware that the environment determines identity and that, of course, the environment impacts health. Architecture is part of that habitat, so we strive to create architecture that improves people’s quality of life. Architecture doesn’t cure but it has a direct and huge influence on the healing process. And we are interested in those who are not in the world of architecture — anyone living in a city — who should know and share the importance of adequate, comfortable and livable buildings for all humans.

In a children’s hospital, children break with their familiar environment, so they need that new environment to facilitate the development of their daily activities: sleeping, reading, studying, playing. The spaces in this building are designed to simplify the adaptation to this different reality. The patients -children or adolescents- must feel as in their everyday world.

The Pediatric Cancer Center

In 2017, we began designing the Pediatric Cancer Center (PCC) for Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, a complex, intense and rewarding project. Now, we are completing the construction and soon the PCC will be a hub for pediatric cancer research and treatment. In the design and distribution of spaces, we sought to contribute to daily life with specific furniture and ambience treatment specially designed for users and uses.

While designing, we learned from the medical staff that the PCC should be a cognitive building. Cognitive science studies the mind and its processes, in a broad sense that includes knowledge, perception and memory. In a cognitive building, we are aware of how the immediate environment is affecting us, and how a sense of security and comfort helps to better assimilate treatments. We were already starting from an architectural principle — a design born from and includes human scale and diversity of people — which has been endorsed by the medical staff who will work in the building. We focused not only on the patient but also on those around them: family, friends, and healthcare professionals.

This humanization also involves adapting high medical technology to the domesticity of architecture. At the PCC, the ambience is founded on the creation of atmospheres suitable for all users, so that a medical space becomes a welcoming, safe and comfortable place for children and companions.

Thus, Pinearq’s principles set the tone for every design decision. We are transforming an existing, closed building with large but tall windows, corridors without natural light and closed offices. From here, we decided to take a biophilic design strategy: the surrounding landscape and natural light enter and incorporate into the building in corridors, offices and rooms. A site-specific project was created by taking advantage of the position above the city and opening up the views towards the sea and the mountains.

Under this last principle, we opted for the creation of relationship spaces between those who will occupy the building: between patients, with game rooms in inpatient units; between patients and companions with the medical staff, by arranging areas overlooking the courtyards (armchairs will appear to turn them into communication areas outside the rooms); between medical staff, as some areas in the professional circulation corridors have been enlarged to place chairs and form spaces for meeting and exchange of ideas; between accompanying persons, an escape valve at the family lounge: spaces for relatives with a living room and a kitchenette.

It is important that each area, on each floor, has environmentally controlled spaces so that the patient can develop activities outside the room. We understand that it should be a space to be used according to the medical specifications of each patient, but it must exist. On the second floor are the outpatient units and daycare facilities. For waiting times, the hall on this floor is open and allows patients to leave the building, play with others or simply wait as a family. On the second floor, the family lounge is internal, more private, and is intended for family members of patients admitted to the inpatient units. On the third floor, the inpatient unit is restricted (TPH) with its own private, specially equipped family lounge.

We have created large relationship areas scattered throughout the PCC for the patients to leave their rooms. Anyhow, there is plenty of space available in every room to own it: arrange a desk and shelves for personal items and a sofa for adult companions.

A unique and delicate environment

The ambience is an interdisciplinary design work, which uses the tools of graphic design and interior design and works in coordination with an architectural project. It should permit the needs of the hospital itself in terms of healthcare services, communication, or infrastructure. With this philosophy and on the architectural canvas, Dani Rubio Arauna — graphic design studio — and Rai Pinto — interior design studio — devised a specific ambience to accompany this new facility.

All architectural design and ambience decisions were based on the characteristics and requirements gathered in Experiència Pacient. It is a study by the hospital services consisting of an agile and interactive consultation with hospitalized patients and their families to establish needs and dynamics of improvement that help the project development and the design of spaces. Thus, it is based on the radical transformation of a traditional design model focused on accommodating the conditions of medical and diagnostic treatments, towards the needs of patients, their mood and comfort. It is teamwork, under clear bases: a work of co-creation that influences the architecture itself.

During the last ten years, Dani and Rai have created and executed the setting for the hospital main building under a clear theme: animals hidding in the architecture. In the PCC, we start from “The hiding place of the animals”, from an already defined visual language, to create a sister project with unique and particular elements. The location at the foot of Sierra de Collserola determined the intention of embracing nature in the PCC’s ambience project.

The natural park is on the other side of the window, visible but untouchable. The project aims to bring a bit of nature inside, to minimize the isolation of patients from the outside space, to bring nature closer. This theme will explain what happens in every space through atmospheres designed from interior design, graphic design and interactive and technological interventions.

As the building for the PCC is currently under construction, the ambience is a living project, a work in progress advancing and transforming according to the conditions of the construction works. Nature appears in an abstract, geometrized form to create thematic atmospheres that give continuity to the lush natural park of Collserola and reduce the stress of the hospital experience.

The purpose is, in short, to create spaces suitable for child users, families and professionals. We intend to create an environment that fosters feelings of comfort, security, affection, everyday life and interrelation. Thus, the aim is to reconcile, soften and tame an experience that is always unpleasant: going through a hospital.