May Architecture teamed with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to deliver a revolutionized model of cancer care for Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Midtown. The 17-story, 455,000-square-foot facility, located within the Midtown neighborhood of Atlanta, represents a culmination of five years of close collaboration with more than 150 end-users, patients, clinicians, volunteers, surgeons, hospital staff, and construction team members. Together, we embarked on an extensive Integrated Facility Design process that included an eight-week “Cardboard City” workshop, which included mocking up every clinical practice in the new facility, including the entire 40,000 SF perioperative floor. During this extensive process, we were challenged to create a new care model that had never been seen or imagined – nothing short of redefining patient care in a new world-class cancer care center.

The result of the process is described on the Winship Cancer Institute’s website as “a unique model of cancer care that places patients at the center of specialized care communities bridging outpatient and inpatient care and integrating groundbreaking research into preventions and treatments.”

The journey to get there was remarkable. It challenged everything we knew about the typical care model and medical facility design, reinventing the typical floor-plate arrangements and bringing services into smaller “care communities” organized by disease types. These care communities include both inpatient and outpatient units, universal rooms designed for both examination and infusion, diagnostics, research, and procedural spaces – all meant to ensure cohesive care while bringing specialized care to patients with similar needs. The connectivity created through two-story communal lobbies unites patients and families enduring the same experiences, providing a sense of community and comfort.

The only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Georgia, Winship relies on research to advance treatment and improve patient outcomes. This focus means attracting and retaining top talent in the field of oncology. Deviating from the typical design resulted in an environment unlike any other medical facility. This space impacts patient care, and profoundly impacts research and wellness amongst faculty, staff, and trainees. Centralized layouts promote collaboration and efficiency, while bright and spacious corridors feature abundant natural light.

Connectivity remained a theme throughout this project. It transcends the patient’s journey into a deeper level of interrelatedness between the cancer community with the city at large. Integrated at street level through what the team refers to as an “urban room,” the hospitality-like drop-off zone is a prominent feature within the bustling Midtown area. Its welcoming environment promotes accessibility to features like a retail boutique, pharmacy, wellness center, café, and other multipurpose spaces meant to bridge the facility with the public.

Several sustainable features were incorporated into the design, but the most impressive is the ambitious goal to expend 40% less energy annually than the average hospital in Atlanta.  The facility is designed and built with energy efficiency in mind, the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Midtown is targeting a LEED Silver certification.