The new, iconic Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center seamlessly connects art, architecture, nature, and human interaction
“Variety of form and brilliancy of color in the object presented to patients are an actual means of recovery.” ~ Florence Nightingale
The new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center is a tangible example of what Florence Nightingale, the 19th century trailblazing nurse, believed to be true. That images and views marked by color and energy have a positive impact on a patient’s healing process. The new 330,000 square-foot outpatient clinic, nestled between Interstate 95 and the San Marco community, beautifully integrates architecture, the natural and built worlds that encircle the building, art, the work of cancer care, and the needs of patients and caregivers.
First and foremost, the new center is about providing exceptional care for patients with a cancer diagnosis. This partnership between Baptist Health and one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, brings the latest research, cutting-edge treatment, a highly-skilled team, and a holistic approach to care to the Northeast Florida region.
And the arts are playing a significant role in the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of patients at the new facility. The building is more than a neutral, institutional space and the art serves a role far beyond decoration. “I worry sometimes that people think we’re simply making an attractive space. This goes way beyond that. We believe that this provides a sense of well being for people facing increased stress and anxiety in their lives,” says Baptist Health President and CEO Hugh Greene. “It was very, very critical for us to have created an environment that promotes healing.”
It is not a new concept to merge art into the circle of care for patients and into the spaces where nurses and doctors do their important work. But here, the integration is seamless. From the large-scale sculptures nestled into parks that punctuate one of Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods to paintings that inject color and life onto walls where treatments take place, the new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, the edges between the building, the city and river views, and the art are blurred. They are brought together with one purpose in mind – providing the best possible space for healing.
And the results were not by coincidence. An intentional process brought together the architects, interior designers, Baptist Health staff, patients, caregivers, and art professionals from the community. This arts advisory team served as the heartbeat for bringing art into the new facility. For more than two years, this committed group learned about the functions of the building and the people who would populate the clinic on a day-to-day basis, and married that information with the work of artists from our region and beyond. By having all of these voices at the table, a thoughtful and care-centered art collection could be formed. “A lot of times we come to the artists after the building is designed, but here we began with the planning of the art in the actual creation of the building, so it would be incorporated and integrated into the physical facility,” explains Greene. The commitment was so deep that architectural plans were sometimes altered to accommodate the art and the plans for how to best elevate the arts was changed by the input of patients and families.
Each work of art was brought to the collection as a result of a set of criteria that considered the purpose of each space inside and outside the building and the ability of works of art to express a particular aspect of the human experience. Diversity of images and artists was important to the committee, as was ensuring the inclusion of artists from our immediate region. This ensured that the collection would represent the patients and caregivers being served in this hub for cancer care in the Southeast.
A book could be written describing each work of art, the motivations of the creator, and the reason why it was selected. Hopefully such a book will come to fruition. But just a glimpse into the finished project provides an illustration of how art, architecture, nature, and human
interaction can be authentically connected. Hope Park becomes more than a landscaped buffer between building and street. It is an asset for the surrounding neighborhood and for those walking and driving into San Marco. Large trees, the welcome of a shaded bench, and a sculpture that anchors the space with color, light, and movement combine to create a gift to the community.
Interior hallways are not simply punctuated with pretty pictures, but are enlivened with works that set a specific mood. On one floor – filled with the bustling activity of meeting spaces, patient entries, and the pharmacy – you can find paintings of a woman and her family celebrating one another and recovery. In contrast, the walls adjacent to waiting rooms and transfusion chairs, where fear and anticipation are often present, art installations of tranquility, peace, and hope are present.
By Hope McMath
Photos by Doug Eng, unless otherwise noted