UW Cancer Center Johnson Creek Wins Design Awards

Madison, Wisconsin - The UW Cancer Center Johnson Creek was nationally recognized recently with numerous design awards for its incorporation of state-of-the-art cancer treatment normally found in large hospitals, into the tranquil atmosphere of the Wisconsin countryside.

The innovative center - a collaboration between UW Health, Fort HealthCare and UW Health Partners Watertown Regional Medical Center - promotes a warm and inviting feeling to patients, family and staff, while simultaneously offering medical services.

"The top design goal was to make the center a patient-friendly environment," said Lynda Persico, past director of the center. "During our visioning sessions for the center we used descriptors like 'nurturing' and 'welcoming' in addition to phrases like 'high-quality care' and 'multidisciplinary.' "

The UW Cancer Center Johnson Creek, which opened in 2005, surpassed those ambitions, earning national attention for its novel approach to cancer treatment. It received an Interior Design Award from Contact Magazine, which was the only health care design award given, and a citation from Modern Healthcare Magazine. The center was also featured in Healthcare Design Magazine.

"Our goal was to create a true patient-centered environment that would offer a peaceful, natural and serene setting to further enhance our patient's healing process," said John Kosanovich, CEO of UW Health Partners Watertown Regional Medical Center. "To receive this recognition tells me that we were successful in our efforts of achieving a place of hope and healing for our community."

Serene environment encourages healing

Designer OWP/P of Chicago shaped the center's atmosphere to promote optimistic attitudes and achieve the hospitals' visions. Views down corridors are controlled so patients never have to look at a blank wall, private treatment room or a confidential conference space. Instead, there is always a window offering an glance of the landscape or sky.

"Cancer treatment can be scary and is certainly time consuming," Michael Wallace, President and CEO, Fort HealthCare. "Providing world-class cancer care in this wooded, comfortable and serene environment must certainly help relieve stress and therefore, contributes to a mind-set that encourages healing."

A warm color palette and comfortable furnishings calm anxious patients, while the building materials reflect the rural environment of Johnson Creek. The steel roof structure, inspired by the skeletal structure of trees, keeps the building from appearing like a box.

"The building's connection to the place is pretty strong," said Design Principal Randy Guillot. "It does things that are very specific in terms of framing the views from the lobby to existing grooves of trees, setting a silhouette. It's almost literal. It is an uplifting, inspiring silhouette."

Guillot also emphasizes that the center was designed to welcome the patients.

"There's an accessibility about the population that is reflected in the building and how the building treats them," Guillot said. "It was very important to have that sense of openness."

Nurturing design, high-tech facility

While the building conveys a nurturing environment, plenty of the features within the walls also make the cancer center a top academic research facility. A conference room with state-of-the-art teleconferencing abilities gives clinicians real-time access to experts in Madison, and the patients have the ability to control music and lighting during treatment.

Most importantly, beyond the architectural designs and components, the center has received plenty of positive feedback from patients.

"The ability to place the cancer center in a natural setting and our opportunity to have natural light through windows in most patient areas have been the highlighted features," said Persico.

"The patients also love to watch the birds and occasional wildlife," Persico added. "Many look forward to watching them during the treatments, which can take many hours."