Woolverstone Macmillan Centre: Art and interiors

The new Woolverstone Macmillan Centre at Ipswich was completed in 2016 and was the result of a substantial extension and reconfiguration of the existing Oncology and Haematology Day Unit. The old unit was very cramped and the lack of space meant little privacy and dignity during treatments, or for patients to have family and friends with them during their treatment.

Macmillan Woolverstone Centre

Key to the ethos of the new centre is a commitment to creating a better patient environment. Staff are able to do their job even more efficiently in a space that helps, rather than hinders and the carefully designed spaces now offer a warm welcome to patients, friends & relatives. 

Willis Newson were brought on board to create an integrated approach to the artworks and interiors design, to create a welcoming, friendly and supportive place for patients. We worked with Macmillan Cancer Care, Ipswich Hospital, construction partner Kier, interior designers from architects ADP and landscape designers, Fira. Our role was to consult and engage patients, to produce an arts strategy and then commission artists to create bespoke work for the space.  

Listening to patients

With our expertise in creating therapeutic healthcare environments we understand that connection with nature and the outside world is essential for patient wellbeing. So, we worked with patients through creative workshops to identify their favourite places and what makes them feel better about being there. This led to three distinctive local landscapes being selected to provide the inspiration for the artwork & interiors: Suffolk scenery from woodland, coastal and heathland areas.

As well as ensuring that patients have a positive, reassuring distraction from any anxiety or concerns about their treatment, the artworks also create a distinctive identity which is driven by patients and located in their familiar surroundings, such as the Orwell bridge or the beach at Southwold.

Patient consultation was also used to inform the interior design throughout the centre, with the vivid colour scheme they chose creating a bright, friendly environment.

Patient representative Kristine commented: "The first time I saw it was the day it opened. I was really chuffed. I thought, “I helped create this!” It was really, really lovely especially the paintings on the walls. It was lovely to see it all come together. It’s not nice having chemotherapy. The nurses work hard to make it as pleasant a place as it can be. It doesn’t help when you are in a clinical, austere environment. But now you can look at the artwork. It’s very large and there are definitely things to distract you and always something different to see. This is Suffolk that we are showing. It’s a distraction from white walls and posters. It reminds you of where you really are."   

Artworks interwoven through the space

Macmillan Woolverstone Centre

We commissioned artists Carry Akroyd and Julia Allum to create large-scale murals inspired by the perspectives shared by patients in our creative engagement sessions and also informed by conversations with staff. The murals are digitally-printed onto vinyl wallcoverings which are durable, robust and comply with infection control regulations.

Carry commented: "I hope the artwork will lift the spirits, and maybe distract people into thinking of some of the beautiful times they have had in these local places."

Artworks were also integrated into the interior and exterior spaces in other resourceful ways to enhance the design and functionality of the Woolverstone Macmillan Cancer Centre. For example, detailed botanical illustrations of local flowers have been used on movable screens in treatment spaces, increasing modesty, privacy and dignity for patients and visitors.

Macmillan Woolverstone Centre

Outside 3 laser-cut screens have been used to provide a focal point in the largest courtyard space, creating visual links between the interior and exterior by using artwork in the same style as the feature wall murals. The powder-coated, stainless steel screens not only add interesting artistic detail to the garden area, but also offer a practical function by increasing privacy and screening off unsightly external heating units.

The facade is an efficient modern skin over the top of the existing structure, made of powder-coated aluminium and glass which will be easy to keep clean.

“I’ve got ovarian cancer. I was diagnosed in 2013. There’s no cure for it. I had a year after my initial diagnosis and treatment. But last April it reoccurred and I have been on chemotherapy treatment since. We took the place that we love, Suffolk, the river and the countryside and the seaside and we talked about all of this. We tried to bring that together and talk from that about the hospital environment and the colour scheme. If you look at the finished artwork, there’s a lot of open farmland and shoreline and the heather that you see. It is our natural environment. I grew up here and have lived here all my life. It’s a beautiful place. To see that depicted on the walls of the hospital where you are receiving treatment is a wonderful thing for all of the people who come to the Woolverstone Macmillan Centre.”

Kristine Lea
Patient representative