Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Women & children's / Quality improvement

European Healthcare Design 2019

A healing environment maintaining life quality for children with cancer achieved by an interdisciplinary approach

By Thomas Bögl 16 Aug 2019 0

This talk presents how the Prinses Máxima Centre for paediatric oncology took shape, and what built measures have been taken to allow the facility to achieve its ambition to be a world-leading centre for paediatric oncology.

Download the slides for this video presentation


The Prinses Máxima Centre opened in May last year in Utrecht. At 45,000m2, it’s the biggest centre in Europe. Research, cure and care come together in one building. Its mission is to cure every child with cancer while maintaining their quality of life.

Extensive research into healing environments and evidence-based design took place to create a building that allows a normal development of the child despite their disease. The research was conducted by doctors, a psychiatrist, engineers and architects, in collaboration with patients and parents.

The interdisciplinary team established a set of features to be incorporated in the building: daylight; fresh air; views to nature; privacy; outside space; control over own environment; acoustics; activating patients; and smell. These were validated during the process to ensure the vision was met. Evaluations took place by desk research, in mock-ups of every room, and with computer simulations. In some cases, special engineering was necessary to meet building regulations and create a stress-free environment.

A set of rules was established for the set-up of the building to allow stress-free use. These rules became part of the building’s bill of requirements. A “one-minute rule”, for example, states that parents have to find all the facilities they need within a one-minute walk of their child’s room.

Additional spaces were needed to support normal development. Each patient room, for example, consists of two independent spaces adjacent to each other – one for the patient and one for the parents. A sliding door allows users to divide or connect the spaces according to their needs. The outside space connected to each of these units is accessible via the parents’ room, enhancing feelings of control and safety. Plans for an extension are already taking shape.

Organisations involved