The M. Lau Breast Centre has recently undergone a complete $1.68-million interior renovation. The objective of the project was to recognize patient and staff objectives and upgrade the environment to meet their needs. However, this transformation needed to maintain and improve upon the rigorous standards of the clinical environment.

This project consolidates all University Health Network breast cancer clinical services to Princess Margaret Hospital. The technical purpose of the renovation was to create high-quality clinical spaces and give ready access to patient intake and staff from a central space. These renovated areas are located off an existing atrium and consist of two pods of clinical space and another area for the Survivorship and Education programs. These areas combine public and private activity.

The breast imaging area was reconfigured to accommodate two new digital mammography machines that provide remote reading capabilities and a picture-archiving system. Facility identity, patient privacy, and well-understood wayfinding overlaid with a spa-like atmosphere were important design elements from the patient-care perspective.

A highly visible location was created for the Survivorship Clinic, a patient support and aftercare program for long-term monitoring, education, and counseling. A separate entrance gives identity to the Survivorship area while not detracting from the Breast Centre's importance as a shared resource within the hospital.

Frequently, patients bring family members with them; therefore, the space must accommodate the needs of the entire family, which requires a patient-friendly approach to this purpose-built space. The challenge for the architect was to carefully select materials and design treatments that are patient-friendly while maintaining clinical standards. This has been accomplished through the creative use of wood-grain sheet flooring, porcelain-stone tiles, and frosted glass to meet the healthcare requirements for durability and ease of cleaning while providing a more natural, private, and comforting hospital-patient interface.

In addition to softening the clinical aesthetic with materials and finishes, the designers and the users wanted to minimize sharp edges and pointed corners in the interior. Curves were introduced throughout the space. A translucent enclosing screen in the reception area also diminishes the usual clinical atmosphere.

The strength of the design is attributed in large part to successfully balancing aesthetic warmth with the placement of key clinical personnel and technologies in consistent and correct relationships. The process of design was one of collaboration. The Princess Margaret Hospital establishes very high standards for itself and its patients and set commensurate expectations for its architects for the appearance and quality of this renovation.

Project category: Remodel/Renovation (completed October 2006)

Chief administrator: Robert Bell, MD, Chief Executive Officer, (416) 340-3300

Firm: Parkin Architects Limited, (416) 467-8000

Design team: Mark Michasiw, Project Architect; Wendy Kaiser, Designer; Anna Merotto, Interior Designer; Rick Miura, Job Captain (Parkin Architects Limited); David McCready, MD, MSC, Project Coordinator; Pamela Catton, MD, Project Coordinator (Princess Margaret Hospital)

Photography: Interior Images, Richard Johnson

Total building area (sq. ft.): 14,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $120

Total construction cost (excluding land): $1,680,000