Location Cleveland, OH
Size 375,000 ft²
Completed 2011
Program Cancer treatment

The 375,000-square-foot Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio, is a ground-up project by University Hospitals designed to give patients and their families a comfortable, inviting, and sustainable place to heal. With a design spearheaded by Cannon Design’s George Z. Nikolajevich, FAIA, the project is registered for LEED certification and employs daylit spaces, a healing garden, and sophisticated individualized controls to improve patient well-being. Here, Carl Karlen, AIA, LEED AP, an associate architect and sustainability coordinator at Cannon Design, walks us through the building.

Transparent, translucent, and opaque panels bring light into the cancer center lobby, but the varying transparencies keep the space private and protected from glare and excessive heat throughout the summer.

Dramatic Lighting

The building features a distinctive, sloping accent on the front face. Once patients and visitors enter the building, the reason for that slope becomes apparent. “You enter, and you’re in an open space somewhat akin to being inside the opening of a large tent,” Karlen says. The large, contiguous space was difficult to heat and cool because of its size, but it offered the opportunity for some dramatic lighting.

“It’s all high-efficiency lights,” Karlen says of this space. “We ran lighting software models to see what the most efficient and attractive way to install the lights would be.” The team spent a good deal of time determining how to create an inviting, ambient glow and reduce glare. Lighting sources were carefully placed and concealed, and the final result allows the light to wash the space, making it softer and more comfortable.


Architect Cannon Design
Client University Hospitals
Associate Architect Array Healthcare Facilities Solutions
General Contractor Gilbane Building Company
Landscape Architect Visionscapes

Offering Control

In areas such as the infusion bay, where the cancer patients sit while undergoing chemotherapy, comprehensive lighting studies were conducted to determine how to allow more finely tuned lighting control. Because the treatments in these areas of the hospital are often overwhelming for patients, the design team was eager to make these spaces as comfortable and inviting as possible. The studies the team conducted looked at not only the individual lighting controls but also at lighting temperatures and their effects on the space. “We studied individual lighting controls to maximize patient comfort, which can contribute a LEED credit,” Karlen says. “We followed the intent of that credit, which was to give these individual patients control over their environment.”

Hello Sunshine

The building envelope uses an extensive amount of glass in a complicated form, a major challenge for the design team. The architects had to model the form repeatedly to make sure it would hit the correct energy targets. The large amount of glazing on the southwest wall was a particularly tough nut to crack. After numerous models and glass tests, the team eventually developed a balance of reflectivity on the glass with frits of varying thicknesses in different places. “It met the energy model for that space individually, but because that area is a component of the entire hospital, everything was heavily studied,” Karlen says. Glare studies were followed by evaluations of heating and cooling, and daylight sensors were installed to moderate the amount of internal lighting used when daylight was available.

Cannon Design used nature-inspired colors, textures, and patterns to provide strong visual clues to patients and visitors.

Cannon Design used nature-inspired colors, textures, and patterns to provide strong visual clues to patients and visitors.


Certification LEED certified (expected)
Site Designated parking for hybrid-electric vehicles, accessible via public transit
Materials 95% of construction waste materials diverted from landfill
Water High-efficiency plumbing fixtures
Lighting Individual lighting controls, daylight and occupancy sensors
Energy Rooftop solar panels, operable solar shades, fritted glazing
Landscape Water-efficient landscaping

New Ideas

“The building’s exterior looks great, but I think the structure’s shape really puts the power on the interior,” Karlen says. The curve of the building defines portions of the interior space, which was something the design team took advantage of to offset the typically frightening feel of a cancer hospital. “These are not the most fun places to be for anybody, not for the patient and not for the family,” Karlen says. So the Cannon team flipped the conventional notion of hospital design on its ear. “The intent was to put them in a place that would not be expected—that was not institutional or clinical. We wanted something that would have an entirely different feeling to it.” The curve on the outside soars above visitors, leading up to a glassy space surrounded by reflective surfaces and natural wood tones.

Green Spaces

As with many new health-care projects, Seidman features a healing garden designed to inspire patients, their families, and the hospital’s staff. Abundant natural daylight, vibrant plant life, and the sound and visual impact of moving water help create a peaceful, healing atmosphere. “It’s a place to go to contemplate, and just be in nature,” Karlen says. “You can be in a little cozy corner, or you can be in a sunny place.” A green roof tops one portion of the building and is directly visible through the floor-to-ceiling glass of the infusion area. The garden is just beyond that, and a larger park area lies across the street. “It’s almost like a carpet of green right up to the glass,” Karlen notes, “so people sitting in the infusion chairs feel like they’re in a park environment and not in the hospital.”