April, 2023

“We are very proud of the design that Sean and his team were able to create  After 15 years since it was built, the project has stood the test of time and is considered by our patients and staff as one of our nicest parts of the entire Texas Medical Center.” 

Janet Sisolak, Project Director
MD Anderson Facilities

Client: University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Size: Phase 1: 72,700 m2, Future Phase: 132,500m2

Program: Outpatient Clinics, Imaging Center, Research Labs and Administration/Support Spaces

Cost: US $295m.

Design Team: KMD: Medical Planning and Architectural Design, FKP: Architect of Record, Hensel Phelps, Contractor

Role: Sean Huang as Lead Masterplan and Design Architect

Award: AIA Award for Design & Build, 2004

MD Anderson, recognized as the leading Cancer care institution in the world, challenged our team to first create a new paradigm for cancer care that would humanize the experience of treatment and downplay the institutional effect of the daunting size of the new campus; second create a flexible platform that can adapt to ever changing technological advances in the equipment and cancer treatment.


Emotional Mapping

Our initial research led the team to recognize that there are 6 key emotions that patients and their families experience in the various stages cancer care: fear, confusion, sadness, hope, belonging and joy. From these emotional states we developed a strategy to choreograph the various journeys that patients and their families would experience to minimize the negative emotions and try to heighten the positive emotions, in essence creating an emotional map that would inform the patient’s Journey of Healing.  Our design strategies focused on the weaving of nature, natural daylighting, music and art throughout the facility, staging circulation, views and areas of respite to animate or calm patients as needed.  Concurrently we developed various scales of spaces for people to explore and inhabit, ranging from active public spaces that highlighted a larger active community, to smaller spaces for families to gather and individual spaces for patients to find private contemplation in self-reflection. ACB's openness and relationship to its environment bring nature inside while engaging the healing impact of nature on the exterior. A variety of seating is spread out throughout the second floor and clinic waiting areas to allow patients to stroll or rest. The patient-centered design is evident in the use of wayfinding, patient care, and design elements, such as color and materials. These were chosen to create a warm, inviting setting for patients, family members, and staff. Brighter jewel tones designate the welcome desks that serve as check-in stations for each of the clinics. Warm woods and accent lighting create a homelike atmosphere.


Italian Hill Town

To help alleviate mass of the buildings, the design team developed a theme of an Italian Hill town as a story that would inform buildings in the master plan and the critical first phase development. The master plan called for a series of medium-height buildings organized around the central village green, the ACB being the first of four buildings that create the central “healing garden” To help break the scale of the individual building further, the team developed a 2 story granite podium and upper level terraces covered extensively with gardens, fountains and shading structures which serve to soften the base of the building for pedestrians and provide a connection to nature for the public spaces within the building.  The team also developed a series of tower forms reminiscent of the Tuscan landscape that would break up the silhouette of the higher building masses and counter the linearity of the buildings and provide visual cues on circulation and gathering areas.


The building program accomodates a breast cancer center, a gynecologic oncology center, a genitourinary oncology center, a 75-bed ambulatory treatment center, 590 new patient exam rooms, a world-class imaging and radiation therapy facilities in close proximity to outpatient clinics. Imaging modalities include PET/CT, high-strength MRI, CT, nuclear scans, mammography, ultrasound, and digital radiology. Radiation therapy modalities include linear acceleration/CT, CT simulation, and brachytherapy. as well as faculty and administrative support areas, and an overall underground parking capacity for 7,000 cars in the eventual master plan buildout.


“What Happens After We Cure Cancer?”

This was the question posed by the client to challenge the team to think about the building design.  As MD Anderson is known for its short, bench-to-bedside approach to discovering and deploying new clinical techniques, it was decided that the building should be designed to be converted to a research lab able to host genomic research as the next mission of MD Anderson.  To accommodate this future use the team developed a 13’6” planning grid to accommodate future lab modules and integrated the MEP and vertical circulation services on the perimeters of the building to allow for large, unimpeded floor areas to maximize flexibility for future lab layouts.