The mission of the University of Texas MD Anderson’s Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care—simply put—is to cure cancer.

But what goes into achieving that mission is far more complex.

That’s where the design of the translational research building comes into play, supporting not just laboratory and office space, but putting people and partnerships at the heart of the building via centralized collaboration spaces.

Attendees of the Healthcare Design Expo & Conference in Houston toured the building Saturday, Nov. 12, led by architect HDR. The 172,000-square-foot building opened in 2014.

The exterior aesthetic of the glass-clad building is a significant departure from MD Anderson’s traditional pink stone buildings on the medical center campus, a bold design decision made to reflect the bold mission of the building.

That glass achieves yet another goal: to provide researchers within an amount of natural light not often seen in laboratory spaces. The expansive “Texas-style” labs are 80-feet wide and feature full-height glass walls that look out onto a public corridor along the exterior wall of the glass building, which pulls light into and throughout the interior core.

Additionally, labs are designed with future flexibility in mind, finished with little built-in furniture and instead using primarily modular pieces of casework. The lab modules are built to adapt to future changes in use, too, including different types of research or conversion to office space.

To combat the Texas sun, shades on the glass-walled public corridor are programed to lower at certain times of the day to correspond with the sun’s cycle and control heat gain. At the corners of each floor are small huddle spaces.

Facilitating the desired collaboration between multidisciplinary researchers in the building are “living rooms” on each floor sited between the building’s four wings (two lab and two office) organized in a pinwheel shape. The spaces are unique to the staffs on each floor, with some finished as lounge areas, gaming areas, or even exercise space.

Stairwells connect teams on every two floors, and spaces throughout are designed to allow plenty of options for where work is done, from quiet zones to open areas with markerboards and tack boards in easy reach.

See the photo gallery for a look inside.