You know you are sick when you enter a hospital. Otherwise you wouldn’t go there. The large buildings with their grand receptions areas are not places, where you hang out just for fun. But the new Healthcare Center for Cancer Patients in Copenhagen designed by Nord Architects aims to be just that: a place where you come to get better, get knowledge – and have fun.
“Research shows that architecture in itself can be healing and have a positive influence on peoples’ recovery. The key is to have a human scale in the architecture and create physical surroundings with a homey atmosphere”
Nord Architects is not unfamiliar with reinventing institutions. They are almost the ghost busters of Danish architecture. The guys you call in when you are tired of looking at the same old bricks and need to reshuffle your organization. The healthcare centre is no exception. The demand 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. In many ways a contradiction in terms, but Nord Architects solved the puzzle by designing a series of smaller houses shaped like the traditional houses you find in children’s cartoons. The houses were then connected by a raised folded roof shaped like the Japanese paper art origami. In that way the building becomes a landmark with plenty of space without losing the comforting scale for the individual.
“As a new cancer patient it can be a great hurdle to come to the center and take on your new identity as a cancer patient. Therefore we have done a lot to make the building as warm and welcoming as possible. There are no large reception areas and no secretaries. You enter through a lounge area and are welcomed by volunteers who help you get the assistance you need. The volunteers are all people who have dealt with cancer, so they know some of the feelings you are going through”
Like the monasteries the healthcare center has an inner courtyard where you sit in silence and meditate. Other activities include patient groups, psychologists, groups for relatives and advice groups run by the Danish Cancer Society. The house also offers activities such as climbing and training:
“Many young people have cancer and it is important for them to know that rehabilitation is not only about resting. They can also be very active and actually it is quite good for them. Therefore the building offers a range of psychical activities. There are also kitchens where people gather to cook and learn how to make healthy food. Food is a very important when you have cancer, because you often lose your appetite during the chemo therapy. Knowing what to cook and how to make it delicious can help recovery”