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New National Cancer Institute

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

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National Cancer Institute


9,000,000 sq. feet
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Project Description


Egypt’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) has unveiled plans for its new nine-million-square-foot campus outside Cairo. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), the New National Cancer Institute will strengthen NCI’s position as the largest comprehensive cancer center in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. The facility will allow the institute to deliver life-changing services to 1.7 million patients from all economic strata per year. It will also serve as an international nexus of cancer research, education, and discourse, enabling NCI to train new generations of practitioners and convene experts from around the world. “This project is an exceptional opportunity to contribute to the National Cancer Institute’s bold vision,” stated Mustafa K. Abadan, SOM Design Partner. “Our design of the campus reflects the institute’s confidence that scientific discoveries can be made and lives changed by the interdisciplinary work taking place within its walls.” Construction is scheduled to commence by the end of 2015. The project is targeting LEED Gold and is designed to U.S. medical planning standards.

When complete, the New National Cancer Institute will combine a 1,000-bed teaching hospital with an extensive outpatient center.
The campus will also include research, training, faculty, conference, its own specialized nursing institute, as well as a hotel and housing for both residents and students. SOM has envisioned the campus as a true community of caregivers, scientists, educators, and students, and its design unites the disciplines in the common cause of curing cancer for all.

The New National Cancer Institute will be located on a gently sloping, 35-acre site in Giza’s Sheikh Zayed City, situated approximately 17 miles west of central Cairo. In conceiving the campus, SOM considered the client’s multifaceted vision, phasing flexibility, and the region’s climate simultaneously. The result is a unified system of functional modules (i.e. in-patient, out-patient, and research) organized among landscaped courtyards and connected by discrete visitor and staff circulation spines. These circulation spines also provide patients, visitors, and staff with access to a network of amenities that includes cafes, lounges, prayer rooms, retail, pediatric activity areas, and daycare. Staff circulation deserves special note, as this corridor efficiently traverses the entire campus while fostering informal and spontaneous interactions between colleagues and students: It exemplifies the overall organization system’s goal of creating both authentic cohesion and orderly separation for the campus. 

The centerpiece of the new campus is its paired in-patient and out-patient components, which total four million square feet. SOM divided the large in-patient hospital into six modules.
These in-patient towers are bracketed by the circulation spines, and lush courtyards are inserted between them. Meanwhile, the out-patient facility comprises a sequence of four volumes interspersed with courtyards, whose common northern elevation faces the site’s primary access road in a welcoming composition of glass and light. Both in-patient and out-patient facilities connect to a multilevel diagnostic and treatment platform that includes a vast array of surgical, interventional, imaging, and radiation-therapy resources, such as linear and proton accelerators.

Moreover, the entire hospital is situated above a massive support plinth. Taking advantage of the site’s sloping topography and a set of deeply penetrating courtyards, this underground world reaches six levels below grade. Stretching across the institute’s entire site, it accommodates auxiliary clinical and research space, general building support, the central plant and distributed mechanical systems, and parking. Although fully integrated, the internal planning of the facility has been designed for a three-step phasing strategy to ensure an early start to this well-awaited community resource.

The physical image of the campus reflects its rigorous planning, and expresses a conversation between vernacular and modern architecture. The functional building modules are clad in stone to convey strength and permanence, and courtyards throughout the campus build upon the local tradition of connecting occupants to shaded outdoor space. Meanwhile, the circulation spines’ faceted glass skins represent lightness and modernity, and both glass and stone surfaces feature abstract patterning inspired by historic Egyptian iconography. The scheme engenders familiarity and comfort, yet assures patients and visitors of the New National Cancer Institute’s state-of-the-art status.

Design of the New National Cancer Institute is a true SOM collaboration. Under the leadership of its Health, Science, Education Studio, SOM is serving as architect and master planner and providing medical planning, interior design, and structural engineering services for the campus. The Health, Science, Education Studio is a powerful incubator of interdisciplinary solutions that, in addition to orchestrating SOM’s diverse talents and resources for NCI, recently designed the three-million-square-foot Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi and completed the Mount Sinai Hess Center for Science and Medicine in New York.

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