‘Fully designed and furnished for one mission: for children, against cancer’

‘Fully designed and furnished for one mission: for children, against cancer’

Princess Máxima Centre for paediatric oncology

The Princess Máxima Centre in Utrecht, specialised in paediatric oncology, is one of a kind. This is where healthcare, research, education and training all come together in one national institute. Due to this clustering and with a surface area of 45,000 m2, it is the largest children’s oncology centre in Europe. The idea behind the interior is just as unique – development-oriented care is the guiding principle. Gispen worked closely together with MMEK in furnishing all the care-related rooms and office workspaces.

Development-oriented care

At the Princess Máxima Centre, they strive to keep children developing for as far as possible during their treatment. Fieneke de Munck Mortier, Project Manager Interior Design at the Princess Máxima Centre: ‘We call this development-oriented care. When a child develops cancer, it affects everything. Their entire family, school and friends. We want to make sure that sick children can continue to be children. We want to offer them all the freedom they need, both literally and figuratively. Riding their bicycles around and playing with other children, for example. It is also nice for the parents to meet other parents who are going through the same thing.’ This is why we deliberately included lots of playing areas in the architectural design. Space for them to play, learn and discover.

The client’s thoughts

“Gispen has really listened to our requests and has translated our plans very effectively into the interior design. The entire interior has been realised in close cooperation with MMEK and Gispen. There were times when we had to keep working at a rapid pace; it was great to see how everybody pulled their weight. And Gispen has shared a great deal of expertise from their experience in furnishing other healthcare institutions and office environments.”

Fieneke de Munck Mortier Project Manager Interior Design at the Princess Máxima Centre

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Experience design

The newly constructed building of the Princess Máxima Centre had to provide facilities for cancer patients ranging from 0 to 18 years. How does one realise this in an appealing and clever way, and in line with development-oriented care? The Princess Máxima Centre presented this question to MMEK, an agency that specialises in experience design. Erik van Kuijk of MMEK: ‘First of all, we wanted to make sure that the children who are being treated get enough exercise. We let them walk, run and do their own thing. Exercise is very important for children with cancer, because it allows their physical and mental development to continue for as far as possible. In addition, we wanted to create an environment in which the child, parents and brothers or sisters feel safe and welcome. When a child gets cancer, everything comes to a standstill. Now, the only important thing is to get better; continuation of family life is very important. In addition to the employees of the Princess Máxima Centre, the parents and children have also been closely involved in the plans for the new interior.’

From interior concept to final interior design

Based on MMEK's design plan, a request for proposal was published for the furnishing of the building. Gispen came out as winner of the tender process. Erik van Kuijk: ‘In their very first proposals, Gispen immediately showed that they thought along the same lines as we did. In only a handful of sessions, we already came to definitive decisions, both in terms of furniture design and aspects such as hygiene, maintenance, operation and price.’ Gispen furnished all the outpatient rooms, waiting areas, offices within the lab, the staff department, the learning environment, a library and – a first in healthcare – a specially designed parent-children's room. A private room that houses both the child and their parents, with a flexible sliding wall in between. Parents can spend the night there, and talk quietly in their own room as their child sleeps.

Children are and always will be children

Nelleke Lagerwerf, interior architect at Gispen: “It was a great journey to find solutions for various spaces together with MMEK. Take the parent-child armchair, for example, which is an important element of the parent-child room. This is a large, comfortable armchair in which a child can sit safely on the lap of their parent. In order to make this chair easy to move around in the room, we added a special base and castors to the original version of the chair. Naturally, the chair complies with all hygienic regulations. The waiting areas for day treatment are also quite special, where there is lots for children to play with. If a child wants to lie in bed during chemo treatment, it’s possible, but they can also play a game. They are and always will be children! We have respected their needs and provided them with various options to choose from.’

Distraction, exercise and relaxation

There are many relaxation and play areas throughout the building. On the first floor, for example, there is a Discovery Centre: a science centre where children of different ages can discover everything about their bodies and their illnesses. On the second floor, there is a Construction Site and a Teenager Lounge. On the third floor, there is a Park that serves as a general meeting place. Nomi chairs can be found throughout the building, fitted with different frames but all in the same design family. Durable but also flexible in application. The same universal shell offers a great deal of variation due to the synthetic leather covers in different colours, which are easy to swap out. Other included products: TM duo desks, Zinn office chairs, SDK sliding door cabinets with plants and TM Doc, the organically shaped desk that really comes into its own at the consultation and examination rooms.

A word from the experience designer

‘Together with Gispen, we wanted to bring the spirit of the Princess Máxima Centre to life. It is and will always be a hospital, but I think we all managed to create something special, making you forget about the Lysol scent. We understood each other well, gave each other space and were flexible where necessary. The foundation for a pleasant partnership.’

Erik van Kuijk Creative Director at MMEK, agency for experience design

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Projectmanagement

Gispen also provided a project management service. This is no luxury, given the size of the project. In a short period of time, all the furniture had to be allocated to the right place within the enormous building. With an additional challenge for the service engineers to place everything in the right room with the correct colour – the outpatient rooms all have their own colours, for example. They also provided a cable management service. Moreover, part of the hospital was already in use at the time of delivery. Nelleke: ‘The short lines of communication with the people at the Princess Máxima Centre and the trust they gave us were of great importance. And, frankly, a necessity for such a tightly planned project.’

What do you think of the result?

Fieneke de Munck Mortier: ‘We've been operational for a couple of months now. Some things were quite stressful. Employees who used to work at different hospitals, now work in one new building –  so both their colleagues and the building are new to them. And everything was thought through, but does it work as we had hoped? During the planning process, we listened carefully to the parents and children, and we received lots of positive reactions to the new parent-children's rooms so far. It is a unique concept, after all. But of course, you always come up against some practical things that need addressing. We will continue to evaluate and fine-tune things and we are still in contact with all the involved parties. This includes Gispen, of course, if we ever need extra furniture.’

Architecture: Liag Architects and construction advisors, Thomas Bögl.

Banner and photos 1 - 20: Chris van Koeverden

Photos 21-28: MMEK

Products included in this project

Toegepaste producten in dit project

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