Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cancer care / Quality improvement

European Healthcare Design 2019

“It does not feel like being in a hospital”: a therapeutic environment for cancer patients. Oncology pavilion in Aranda de Duero, Spain

By Angela E. Müller 19 Aug 2019 0

This talk focuses on a project in Spain to redesign and relocate an oncology unit for cancer patients.

Download the slides for this video presentation


This project did not begin as planned. Specialising in birth environments, we were called by the hospital to solve some problems at the maternity ward. During the visit, however, we had sight of the oncology department and immediately our priorities changed.

Purpose: This project offered challenges such as designing for a diverse group of oncology patients (ambulatory and inpatients, across a wide age range), resistance of certain staff members, and the advantages and disadvantages of being in a village with an extreme climate situation. Limited space and time also led us to explore new options.

We had no experience with oncology departments but wanted to try something different, not only by adapting to the needs of patients and staff but also in offering a healthy environment using different materials and construction solutions.

Methods: During chemotherapy, each patient has different needs, and in one treatment cycle the same patient might experience very different treatment days. One day, they need company, another day they prefer to be left alone or ask for a quiet corner, while another patient wishes to be next to the television. The reality, however, is that individual needs are not always met. Oncology day care centres in Spain are located in hospitals, usually in mixed areas (outpatient and inpatient) in often desolating environments that offer little distraction or beauty. For this project, a light wooden pavilion for quick construction, and a “breathable” building capable of adapting to different climate situations were chosen.

Conclusions: One aim was to provide a design rarely associated with a hospital. Relocating the unit into the hospital building during the few months of construction was key to the final outcome, as staff and patients lived and worked in three different environments during a short period of time, and we could do follow-ups to inform our conclusions. We also intend to share some ideas about oncology care environments that we couldn’t include because of the lack of space and time afforded us on this project.

Organisations involved