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Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: West Harrison 2015 Design Is…Award Global Winner

Shaw Contract Group conducted interviews with all firms of Global Award winning projects from the 2015 Design Is…Award program. As part of this process, we share a portion of the response on our blog for readers to learn more about the winning projects.  These are their stories.

Here, Suzen Heeley from Ewing Cole addresses the design process for MSK in West Harrison, NY.


Describe this project in one word.


How does this project demonstrate how design can impact users in a space?

A patient relayed the following to us regarding her experience at this facility:

Newly diagnosed with cancer, a woman who happens to be an interior designer, chose to go to our new regional center located near her home.  Understandably, she felt anxious, nervous and stressed about her first visit and did not know what to expect.  Upon walking into the lobby, her nerves calmed and she felt less anxious seeing the design of the space.  She told us that the colors, finishes and furniture made her feel secure about being at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center…that she knew she was in the right place.  For if MSK cared enough to create such a wonderful space, it was an organization that truly cared about her as a person and as a patient.  And she was pleased to see pendant light fixtures she recognized from her design work!


Design is a process. Explain your journey.

At first glance, it was a challenge to see beyond the dated brick and metal panel building to envision what is now MSK West Harrison.  Once our design team recovered from the shock of being handed such a challenge, they recognized the location offered great potential to become our latest MSK outpatient facility, transforming an existing 1950’s office building into a 114,000 square foot, contemporary cancer center. No detail was overlooked in crafting a transformational patient experience within a sustainable, green building environment.  The design features of this intuitive, serene space work to maximize patient comfort and reduce anxiety, while providing the most advanced clinical care.  The patient is the focus forevery design journey we take and pushing our design consultants beyond their comfort zones to create the right design is our mission.  We are the #1 cancer center in the U.S. and our patient environments should reflect this in every way.


What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through this project that you’d want to share with the designers of tomorrow?

  1. Leave your fears at the door and push yourselves way beyond your comfort zone…forget status quo.
  2. Put yourself in the patient’s shoes and see the space and experience through their eyes.
  3. Separate yourself from the pack…there are many designers out there and Owners look for what distinguishes you from the rest.
  4. Never say “never”…there’s always a better solution out there.
  5. Don’t recycle design ideas you’ve created for another healthcare organization; each project is a new opportunity for you to reach new heights.


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