Designed by Perkins+Will, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology is a unique piece of City of Hope, one of the nation's leading cancer research, treatment, and education centers. Housing 119,000 square feet of state-of-the-art scientific space and equipment, the Beckman Center provides an integrated research environment to pursue advanced cancer therapies and research, along with a graduate school dedicated to teaching future generations of scientists. Most significantly, however, is the fact that the center's cutting-edge methods of cancer treatment allow the development of new drugs, clinical research trials, and customized treatment to hospital patients on the same City of Hope campus, taking the idea of translational research to its ultimate end.

HEALTHCARE DESIGN Editor-in-Chief Todd Hutlock spoke to Richard Jove, PhD, director of City of Hope's Beckman Research Institute, as well as several members of the Perkins+Will design team-Principal Architect Eric Aukee, AIA, LEED AP; Associate Principal and Senior Project Architect Bryan Schabel, AIA, LEED AP; and Senior Interior Designer Lynnette Tedder, LEED AP-about this unique facility.

Institutional vision

Richard Jove, PhD: The vision for this building was to serve multiple functions. First of all, we needed laboratory space for translational research. That involves laboratories that do basic, fundamental discovery-type research, as well as laboratories that translate that research into new therapies for cancer patients. We have research going on that not only discovers new therapies but takes them to the next step by translating them in the same building, and then takes them over to the clinic for implementation. For example, we have a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facility, which is the kind of facility you typically find in pharmaceutical firms that will take a new therapy discovered from basic science and turn it into a product that can then be put back into patients. This allows us to accelerate the transfer of brand new laboratory discoveries directly to patients right here in the same campus via our own hospital across the street, the new Helford Clinical Research Hospital. Our old research building was a smaller building that was more focused on basic science, without the full continuity and integration we have now.

We also have the City of Hope Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences on the first floor where we train the next generation of biomedical research scientists. Between these areas of focus within the building, we have established a fully integrated vision of the scientific discovery, bringing these discoveries to the patients, and training future researchers under one roof.

Building breakdown

Jove: The first floor has the 75-student graduate school, the second and third floors have the basic science research laboratories, and the fourth and five floors house more of the translational areas, which take the discoveries from the second and third floors and develops those into new therapies for patients. The fourth floor has the GMP facility, which produces, for example, immune cells that can be injected into a patient that will seek out and destroy a patient's tumor cells. On the fifth floor is a radiopharmacy, where we take antibodies and attach radio isotopes to them; they then home in on tumors like little smart bombs and destroy them with radiation.

Bryan Schabel: This was a very tight site, and it sits on a quadrangle with some mature magnolia trees. This building and the hospital represent a change in scale for the City of Hope campus, pushing it towards larger, state-of-the-art facilities. The most important part of the siting, however, was the adjacency to the hospital to establish a new core campus; eventually the master plan will expand out from this new center.

There are certain aspects that City of Hope wanted to celebrate, which helped us establish the site plan. One was the cell production suite on the fourth floor, a key component to this building. It was located above the entry, and a three-story arcade that leads to the lobby. This is on the southeast corner, which is the prime location for forging an entry relationship with the hospital, allowing one to walk across the street from building to building.

We also wanted to take advantage of the magnolia trees and the incredible views to the mountains to the east, so we knew when establishing the plan to situate the laboratories on the west side, with offices on the east side and terraces on the building to open up the views and take advantage of the natural light.

We wanted to make sure that the lobby was very open and to establish a pedestrian path along the quadrangle. There is a sense of openness, particularly on the ground floor, with all the public entities-the auditorium, the bistro, and the academic area-spinning off of the lobby.

Design differences

Eric Aukee: This building is a healthcare building, a research building, and an education building, all at once. The key difference in designing a building like this versus an inpatient facility is that in a building with patients, wayfinding is critical. This is more of a “users” building, and those users primarily know where they are going. You don't need all those physical cues to remind people of where they are. The most public area is the education area, which is located on the ground floor-that area is more open, flexible, and clear. Patients and families are really not moving through this building; this is more like a research facility in terms of security via key card and other means once you get beyond the first floor.

Many research facilities are very repetitive from floor to floor in design; in the Beckman Center, spaces such as the GMP plant and the radiopharmacy suite are unique, making this much more like a hospital design than a typical research lab. These rooms are designed for flexibility, but also for very specific equipment and functions; they are more like back-of-house spaces in a typical hospital, but the patients are being treated by treating their tissue rather than the whole body. The brand of care provided by City of Hope comes together in a distinct, unique way in this building. With this “bench to bedside” concept, we're actually bringing the lab closer and closer to the hospital.

Schabel: We designed this building with staff and functionality in mind. Flexibility in the labs is of primary importance. Working with the lab planners, we wanted to make sure that we had good lengths of lab bars on one side, with flexible space on the other side. This allowed us to open the other side to views and natural light. Throughout the building, there are “collaborative” stairways to accommodate informal interaction in the building, terraces, open offices, and breakout spaces to encourage communication throughout the building.

We also kept in mind that this is a key campus piece, not strictly an isolated lab space. That played into the design, as well.

Interior design concepts

Lynnette Tedder: Our approach is that interiors are holistic to the exterior of the building; it is important to us that a building is seamless from the outside in. Everything that we do from a palette, material, or design aspect ties into the exterior design. The internal palette is very much taken from the exterior of the building, using the same materials as much as possible. The patterns on the metal ceilings, for instance, are the same as those used on the exterior of the building. We wanted to be timeless, but we also wanted to be hopeful and fresh, so there are color accents added to the more traditional academic palette used throughout.

We used a DNA pattern on the floor of the lobby that reflects some of City of Hope's breakthroughs into the design. From there, we use interpretations and references to it throughout the building, from carpet patterns to the auditorium seating, but they are not as literal. We wanted to make sure the carpets had some active patterns to give life and to play off of the large amount of solid surfaces found in the building.

We had some challenges accommodating the facility's storage and privacy requirements, because we really wanted to promote the views and access to light and interaction. We wound up with workstations that provided a lot of storage so we could give them as much space as we possibly could to maintain that open approach.


Jove: City of Hope is nearing its centennial year, which will be 2013. We have a long history of passionate patient care and also compassion; for the last half-century, we've been focusing on developing new therapies to enhance our vision of providing the best in patient care. We have our history, but we are also looking toward the future. This building really embodies the concept of bringing the research and the patient care even closer together, working hand-and-hand with the new Helford Clinical Research Hospital. We can carry out our mission even more effectively because we can now turn new discoveries into new therapies and deliver them to the patients as quickly and efficiently as possible. There are many institutions that do excellent basic science research but do not have a hospital directly connected, and focus is not on translation into the clinic. City of Hope emphasizes not only excellence in basic science, but in using that science to improve the lives of patients with life-threatening diseases.

The City of Hope campus is a unique place that fills a niche for translational research; I think this is a new model for the future. Our mission is not simply science for science's sake, not simply education, but we are out to provide the best possible care for our patients. The research that we do here is a big part of that in terms of bringing all the latest and greatest therapies to patients, as well as educating the next generation. Everything about what we do is focused on new therapies for the singular mission of improving the lives of the patients, from the beginning to the end of the process, with the greatest compassion and care.

This new building has been very energizing on many levels. First of all, it is symbolic of the future of our institution. It provides a focal point for the rest of the campus to see where this is all happening and how that all fits into the overall mission of City of Hope; it is something that everyone can relate to both on the clinical and the research sides, and it has really brought us all together in a meaningful way.


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Healthcare Design 2010 May;10(5):104-111