Miami Cancer Institute

ZGF Architects creates a state-of-the-art facility for comprehensive cancer care on a parklike campus in Miami. Photography by Halkin Mason

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No two cancer patients are alike, yet all can benefit from a healing environment that addresses their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. For the new Miami Cancer Institute (MCI), Baptist Health South Florida (BHSF) engaged ZGF Architects, in association with MGE Architects, to weave together innovations in technology, design, and cancer care in creating uplifting, patient-centered spaces that contribute to a sense of community.

“The [MCI] patient advisory group had the highest level of input. They recognized that places where they normally get care are too traditional, so they wanted an open building with access to the outdoors,” says Barbara Kubasti, principal at ZGF.

The design team was tasked with consolidating six cancer care centers into one new 390,000-square-foot building on the BHSF campus in Miami. It is the only facility in the Southeast that offers all five types of radiation therapy: linear accelerators, CyberKnife, TomoTherapy, Gamma Knife, and proton therapy.

Forming a new gateway at the northwest corner of the parklike BHSF campus, the MCI includes an outpatient care center and a research wing, allowing it to deliver cutting-edge services in a lush setting. The program incorporates oncology clinics, diagnostic services, pharmacies, patient and family resources, classrooms, dining, retail, a meditation room, a chapel, and outdoor gardens and terraces. Having all of the treatment options in one place also allows BHSF to provide customized treatments while reducing patient discomfort.

Kubasti explains that BHSF is dedicated to treating the whole patient for the best outcome: “Before the design documents were finished, the [BHSF leadership] decided they were missing the mind-body health component. So they asked us to design massage rooms, a test kitchen, and a “brain fitness lab” that provides computerized neurocognitive assessments and cognitive remediation training. This was a pleasant surprise.”

Centering with circulation
The four-story L-shaped building captures views of two nearby lakes. Circulation was a key design driver, with the complex organized around a light-washed north-south spine that allows direct connections to the three treatment floors while giving a clear and consistent point of reference for navigating the interior. “The client recognized that it’s a big building and that wayfinding is critical,” Kubasti says. “So we wanted to shorten steps and make it easy for folks to get from parking to their destination without having to stress.”

The public concourse is relatively compact, minimizing walking distances between distinct clinics that offer specialized treatments. Patient and family spaces are centrally located and highly visible, offering a symbol of supportive cancer treatment.

“One thing that bubbled out of conversations with clinicians and patients was the desire to put the infusion suite on the top floor, organized as if it’s a penthouse,” says Kubasti. “Many think that because infusion patients come back all the time, they want to be on the first floor, but that’s not the case. These patients want serenity, views, and special status.” Further reinforcing its importance, the spalike penthouse has its own connection to the parking garage at that level.

Creating destinations and community
ZGF designed each of the floors to represent a distinct geographic area of Miami. Designers incorporated a bright palette of colors, artwork, and regional materials, such as wood and limestone, and reflective surfaces and cool undertones evoke the city’s beaches, tropical vegetation, coral reefs, and wetlands. Depending on their function, some spaces inspire calm while others feel more energetic.

The sunny indoor galleries feature floor-to-ceiling windows with timed shades for soothing natural light. In addition, patients benefit from dramatic views as well as access to outdoor gardens and terraces.

Subtle touches define spaces and create an appropriate and inviting atmosphere. Etched glass screens subdivide public areas to create intimacy, while lighting levels vary based on flow and need. A multilevel jellyfish tank anchors the lobby to delight and soothe stress. The result is anything but institutional. “The complex has become a destination, attracting people beyond the MCI building from other parts of the campus and surrounding area,” Kubasti says. “There was an unmet need, and people like the spaces.”

who Architect and interior designer: ZGF Architects. Architect of Record: MGE Architects. Associate Architect: VOA Associates. Contractor: Robins & Morton. Lighting: MCLA. Engineering: TLC Engineering for Architecture (MEP); Bliss & Nyitray (structural); David Plummer & Associates (civil). Kitchen: Inman Foodservices Group. Landscape: Geomantic Designs. Graphics: Tom Graboski Associates. Parking: Desman Associates. Medical equipment: Mitchell Planning Associates. Vertical transportation: Lerch Bates. Material management: St. Onge.
what Wallcoverings: Carnegie. Paint: Sherwin-Williams. Laminate: Formica. Hard flooring: Daltile. Resilient flooring: Nora Rubber. Carpet/ carpet tile: Shaw Contract. Pendants/chandeliers: Lumens. Sconces: Resolute. Decorative glass panels/partitions: Skyline Design. Window treatments: MechoSystems.