"Traditionally, going into any medical institution is an uncomfortable experience, for patients and relatives alike. For buildings designed to heal, it's remarkable that so little priority is afforded to the emotional and healing aspects of the architecture. In addition, the hyper-complexity of the healthcare sector establishes a relation between the users and the experts that is based on a framework of trust rather than understanding and mutual engagement. The result is a greater separation between citizens and institution, as many of the processes evade comprehension. This was certainly not the case for the Copenhagen Centre for Cancer and Health, designed to foster a closer relationship between staff, volunteers and cancer patients. This ethos remained a key part of the design, with much of the program and organisation generated in a user driven process between architects, patients and staff.
Catering for a range of demographics, from cancer patients and relatives to survivors, the day centre is open to the city for therapy, training and counseling. Visitors are met by volunteers seated around a dining table, where coffee and tea are served in a lounge that bears closer resemblance to a café than a reception and waiting room. The other parts of the house include a courtyard for contemplation, spaces for exercise, a common kitchen for classes, spaces for counseling and physiotherapy and meeting rooms for patients groups run by the Danish Cancer Society.
The brief was clear and simple: create a healthcare center which is more like a home, and less like a hospital. The building should be iconic and create awareness of cancer, without stigmatizing the patients. The solution emerged as a series of smaller houses, formally resembling the traditional dwellings of our Danish vernacular. The houses are connected by a raised, origami shaped roof, which gives the building its distinct character. In that way, the building became a landmark of the area, without losing the comforting and domestic scale for the users. Inspired by religious architecture, the interlocking volumes of the house dance around a central courtyard, creating a space of tranquility within the city.
The material palette of concrete, wood and aluminium was chosen to age gracefully, creating a rich tactile effect unseen in many medical facilities. The paradigm shift from passive to active rehabilitation promotes faster recovery, an obvious advantage for all parties involved. This model of treatment has proved successful, with additional centers emerging within Denmark and beyond."