Located in South Miami, Innovative Cancer Institute (ICI) provides cutting-edge treatment in radiation oncology to patients from the South Florida region and across the globe. In need of a larger facility to accommodate growing demand and incorporate the latest technologies, ICI commissioned GS&P to design a new cancer treatment facility that would create a unique identity in the community. The resulting 61,500-square-foot, four-story Center for Innovative Medicine offers patients a positive, healing environment, along with state-of-the-art cancer care. Principal-in-charge Luis Cano describes some of the key project challenges:
“The site itself was one of our biggest hurdles,” explains Cano. “The property was selected and purchased before GS&P became involved and was way too tight a space for what the client needed. We not only had to design to the setback and height limits, but the City of South Miami required a set number of parking spaces per square foot. Given these site limitations, there was no room whatsoever on the ground level to provide the 80 parking spaces that codes required.
“Our design solution was to incorporate an access ramp on the first floor where it will not be a prominent feature of the building, and then place parking on the second, third and fourth floors. This presented us with the challenge of making the building look like a 21st-century, high-tech radiation facility that reflects the quality of care that patients will receive, as opposed to a parking garage.”
To accomplish this, the design team selected a sleek, perforated aluminum skin to cover the parking garage, enhancing the aesthetic quality of the building’s facade.
“Using the perforated aluminum screen system to wrap the building did a couple of key things,” says Cano. “Firstly, it created an open space in what looks like a solid building. During the day, you can’t tell it’s a parking garage—it just appears as a sleek-looking metal skin. But when you’re inside, that skin almost disappears and doesn’t impede your view. Additionally, the panels provide natural ventilation, allowing air to flow from one end of the building to the other. At night, you can tell those aren’t walls, and that something unusual is happening on the inside because you can see pinpoints of light emanating from the garage.”
Distinguished by its smooth-texture white stucco finish, along with aluminum cladding, translucent glazing and brushed-metal signage, GS&P’s exterior design gives prominence to the occupied spaces and architecture of the building, while placing the garage portion of the structure in the background.
Saving Space to Accommodate Technology
Another way in which the design team was able to maximize space was by working with Veritas Medical Solutions to plan for radiation-shielded treatment vaults constructed with VeriShield™ modular blocks—a system of dry-stacked, ultra-high-density shielding modules, and a space-saving alternative to solid concrete shielding materials.
“There are two main ways of designing a radiation cancer treatment center or a linear accelerator vault,” says Cano. “You either use solid concrete or a product like VeriShield, which dramatically reduces wall and ceiling thicknesses compared to concrete.
“Most of the walls in the facility’s treatment vaults are 2 feet wide, and then the primary walls are approximately 4 feet wide. If we had incorporated the same technology using solid concrete instead of the VeriShield modules, the 2-foot walls would have been around 4 feet in width, and the 4-foot walls would have measured approximately 6 to 7 feet in thickness. That would have taken up a lot more footprint and meant a lot less usable area in the space considering how tight the design is based on the small site. Incorporating the VeriShield blocks into the design allowed the vault to fit within a single floor because of the density of those blocks.”
Housed within the facility’s radiation-shielded treatment vaults are some of the world’s most advanced radiotherapy and radiosurgery technologies, including the Varian EDGE™ system that targets tumors with pinpoint accuracy, precision and speed while protecting surrounding, healthy tissue.
“Innovative Cancer Institute is leading the way as one of the first freestanding cancer treatment centers in the U.S. to offer this first-of-its-kind technology,” notes Cano.
Other front-line technologies include brachytherapy, conformal therapy, IMRT, IGRT, a brand-new 64-slice Siemens CT scanner, and a Varian Trilogy® linear accelerator that provides patients with a wide range of cancer treatments.
Creating a Cohesive Design – Exterior to Interior
In addition to complementing the growing South Miami locale through a variety of progressive exterior features, the design team sought to bring the architectural tone of the facade into the facility’s interiors.
“We desired a cohesive building, with the interior following the exterior, which is high-tech and streamlined,” explains senior interior designer Shauna Carpenter. “We were able to use some of the same materials on the inside as we did on the outside. For example, the solid metal panels that were used on the exterior were also used on a curved wall on the interior. So, when you’re on the inside, it feels like you’re in the same building you saw on the outside. Everything is white, glass, clean and contemporary, as opposed to looking very institutional and plain.”
Along with a unified connection to the exterior, creating the best possible patient experience was a key driver in the interior design. Interior features such as art collections and views to lush gardens generate interest and help ease anxiety for patients. Neutral, contemporary offices and clinical areas also contribute to a calming aesthetic.
“We wanted to create an environment where the patient feels at ease across the board,” says Carpenter. “That’s why we incorporated the landscaping the way we did, and laid out the interior with almost all patient care, such as waiting and sub-waiting areas, with views to daylight.”
“We also designed the exam rooms so equipment like stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and other machines are concealed inside a panel behind a beautiful wooden headwall. So the patient never has to see that equipment, which can be very overwhelming. They only see a clutter-free space, which helps to alleviate stress,” adds Cano.
An Inspired, Modern Facility
Successfully accommodating all of the client’s needs along with the requisite parking on the small site, GS&P’s eye-catching design sets the tone for future design in South Miami by enhancing the architectural character of this emerging Miami-Dade County neighborhood. Radiation oncologist and ICI founder Dr. Beatriz E. Amendola speaks to the project’s success:
“The Innovative Cancer Institute is the work of a collaborative team with an unwavering focus on providing patients with a positive, healing environment and the very latest in cancer treatment. GS&P has created an inspired, modern facility that helps us embrace the most advanced, sophisticated technology. We are proud to serve the South Florida community, as well as national and international patients. Our team is dedicated to changing lives one at a time with exceptional, personalized care.”
“We got lucky,” concludes Cano. “We had a client who gave us the opportunity to really make a difference. That is very unique, and we were very fortunate.”