With fritted-glass exterior walls that appear to spiral gently inward toward the accelerators anchoring its core, Kaiser Permanente’s Kraemer Radiation Oncology Center (Anaheim, Calif.) makes it clear from the first look that its approach to cancer care aims to be different.

“Kaiser Permanente had a vision for a cancer treatment facility that was unlike others of similar function, which for practical purposes are most often in the basement, buried below ground to shield the accelerators and contain radiation,” says Mehrdad Yazdani, director of Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign (Los Angeles). “By bringing a facility that’s normally below grade above grade, we are able to take advantage of natural light and the relationship with the landscape—two components that greatly improve the patient experience.”

The 2016 Healthcare Design Showcase jury clearly appreciated the results of this effort, unanimously voting to bestow an Award of Merit honor on the project. “This is very innovative,” one juror said. “It’s a ‘feel good’ cancer center with a nice clarity and simplicity of design and planning.”

The 16,000-square-foot building, which opened in June 2015, grew out of extensive research and simulations during the design phase and throughout the project’s completion, with several Lean analyses developed to simulate flow. The design team explained that its main goal toward managing operations was to make the building as simple as possible, and plan it with patient flow front and center.

The three main procedure spaces (the linear accelerator, or LINAC, vaults) sit at the heart of the structure, surrounded by the support functions. A simplified circulation enhances operations by ensuring a “no waste” flow of people and supplies. A garden was sited at the end of every corridor in the building—but that’s just the beginning in terms of meeting the goal of “bringing nature in.”

“Bringing in landscape, light, and color palettes that were soothing was very important,” Yazdani says, “and one of the main features is the Zen garden, which is immediately visible from the LINAC rooms.” This particular feature, which allows patients access to nature even within a space as necessarily closed-off as this one, really caught the jury’s eye.

Balancing daylight access with a sense of privacy was another concern that was met with a grand-scale, architectural solution that helps the center stand out in its surroundings. “The exterior fa├žade has a fritted-glass treatment where we use imagery of the forest to reinforce the relationship of the building to the landscape,” Yazdani explains. “The density of the glass varies depending on privacy needs while still allowing exposure to views and daylight.”

Ultimately, the unique impression of the building from the outside—some jury members likened it to a seashell—coupled with its thoughtful, meticulous planning on the inside make this LEED Gold-certified center a winner. “Beautiful planning, well detailed, and solid collaboration with stakeholders,” summarized another juror. “It’s inspirational.”