Project Review: Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Tower -

University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences

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Location - West Markham, Little Rock, AR
Owner - University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences
Architectural Firms - Cromwell Architects Engineers, Little Rock, AR, Lead Architect: Hrand DuValian, AIA, and FKP Architects, Houston, TX
General Contractor - CDI Contractors, LLC, Little Rock, AR
Stone Fabrication Contractor - Arkansas Granite & More, Benton, AR
Building Size; New WPRCI is approximately 320,000 S.F. (including the Walker Annex)



Questions for Hrand DuValian, AIA regarding the project:


Q. What were some of the challenges of the project, and how were they overcome?

A. This was the center of campus where the research zone, hospital zone, and outpatient zone met. Connection to these buildings, crossing two public streets, physically attaching three buildings, on top of one building, cantilevering over another, enveloping a raised bridge, reversing completely the existing Cancer tower, and tying the whole together so it looks and acts like it was always meant to be - and making it feel like one institute and campus - was the major challenge.

Q. What are some of the unique architectural features of this project?

A. An eleven story atrium tied to a 6-story wedge atrium tied to a 2-story solarium with a 12-story open glass monumental stair.

Q. What is an estimate (very rough only) of how many hours or manpower went into the development and management of this project?

A. Just Cromwell's man hours were around 60,000 not including the mass of consultants.

Q. Are there any other comments or information that you wish to share?

A. On a personal note: The project was a once in a lifetime project that was a complete joy. I had worked with the team on the original expansion of the Walker tower in the mid 90's, and I knew it was designed to expand horizontally. Ever since that time, I had hoped to be a part of that expansion and was blessed with the opportunity to do it. This is a group of selfless physicians and administrators, and their dedication really made me want to give my all to the project. It has been hard but worth every minute.



Comments by Hrand DuValian, AIA regarding a tour of the facilities during the final phases of construction:

(Photos taken on June 22, 2010 by Robbie Green, Photographer)

"Here is the New Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Welcome/Information/Concierge Desk."


"This desk is on access with both the new front door of the cancer institute and, when renovation of the existing tower is complete, centered on the existing front door for direct line of site, and orientation for patients. The desk is made of Botticino Marble, Autumn Harmony Granite and figured Anigre wood veneer. The materials were selected for visual impact, durability and enhancing the building theme of crisp cool modernism juxtaposed to the warmth of natural elements. The clean off white marble and warm browns bring these two ideas together. The arc shape echo's the form of the room which is a series of overlapped sweeping curves originating from the vehicle drop off just out front. Functionally, the need for it to face two doors at 90 degrees to each other, and the ease of movement around it reinforce the decision for the curve."

Click on images for enlargements.

"This building is about interconnectivity."



"The idea of spaces connecting with the whole enhances the concept of collaboration and Translational Research (definition: research lab bench to bedside medicine - or quickly bringing research to the patients as our medical technology rapidly progresses.) All the waiting rooms are part of this connected space. A 12 story, 6 story and two 2 story atria are all interconnected. This picture shows the second floor future women's clinic waiting room overlooking the new entry lobby."

"The building is designed with a more Asian
than European character."


"It is more about the experience of numerous smaller spaces with unexpected views. More about the journey than a destination."

"The front desk will be staffed by two receptionists and two others including volunteer services and security."


"Since the final combined facility will be over a half million square feet, the concept of a concierge service front desk was envisioned. The design plays off the building's intersecting planes. A lower curved plane (at ADA height) tucks under the upper transaction counter plane. Horizontal planes (counter top and transaction surface) being granite and vertical planes of both marble and wood."

"The back wall will highlight the institute name in stainless steel letters on the warm anigre paneling."


"To keep the clean - non clinical type appearance, printers and fax machines will be mounted in roll-out shelves in the cabinets below the back counter. Ample space is provided for supplies and stored documents."

"Since UAMS is the densest urban space in the state of Arkansas, and many patients from rural areas of the state will be coming to receive treatment, simple way-finding is a must."

"We chose to use non-verbal cues for this way-finding to the greatest extent possible. Thus the decision to use a dramatic surface on the elevator tower. The design of the institute is such that no patient will ever be in a space - unattended by institute staff without the ability to see the elevator tower and know how to return to their point of entrance. We chose California Gold Slate for its beautiful naturally varied palate of deep warm tones including terracotta to blend with the 'Burnt Pumpkin' campus brick."

"Entrances to the elevator tower are marked with a crisp bright white floating ceiling projecting from the rich deep tones of the slate."


"The elevator number (campus way-finding) will be mounted with three dimensional aluminum letters above the floating ceiling and back lit to catch the eye and improve way-finding."

"A major concept in the design of the building is the blurring of the line between interior and exterior."

"This is exemplified in the "Solarium," one of the 2 story atrium spaces in the building. The Solarium used to be an alley behind the existing cancer institute to access the loading dock, some internal campus buildings, for fire trucks access, and the front door of the central campus MRI building that had become obscured over the years by all the adjacent construction. Since much of the MRI needs are directly attributed to cancer patients, the determination was made to incorporate the MRI building into the cancer institute interior so that patients didn't have to go outside the building to enter the MRI. The biggest challenge to this idea is that the MRI building (a one story building) was 6' above the existing cancer tower first floor. A series of grand steps and meandering ramps in a garden like setting was developed to resolve this floor line disparity. The space becomes a transition between the central lobby/atrium space and the exterior healing garden and centers on the fountain outside. Bringing the brick inside, the use of precast caped slate planter walls, the natural light from the large skylights and clerestory windows above, the use of exterior street lights and accent landscape lighting and interior planting is all part of blurring of the line. The upper end of all planter walls is at a sitting height for those using the solarium to sit and talk or have a cup of coffee and contemplate."


"Autumn Harmony granite was used at numerous transaction tops, and niches thru-out the facility."

"James Scroggins, of UAMS Construction and Contract Administration stands with Hrand Duvalian of Cromwell Architects Engineers on the new cancer institute drop off drive which is paved with concrete pavers to highlight the drive area."

"The pavers give a warmer - more human scale while allowing access to utilities in the street below. The 3" thick pavers in a herringbone pattern were suggested by the ICPI (Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute) as the strongest solution for vehicular traffic."

"The beautiful richly saturated colors of the California Gold Slate stand out against the white walls, floors and ceilings allowing the natural product to take center stage."


"Nature is brought to the coffee bars in the waiting rooms which are highlighted with woodtones, solid surface counters with a metallic copper fleck, rich slate walls and checkerboard coffee brown and deep terracotta linoleum flooring."







"Hidden sinks for a cleaner patient friendly appearance and space for recyclables are built into each location."

"The infusion reception desk features anigre and maple woods on the vertical surfaces and Autumn Harmony Granite on the horizontal surfaces - echoing the feel of the first floor Concierge desk but using a smaller palate of materials."

"The infusion Center is sprinkled with nutrition areas for patients and family members."


"The same palate used and Lobby Coffee bars is used at all places for nutrition as a part of the non-verbal way-finding system."


"A new connection bridge between the existing hospital circulation system and the new cancer institute will house the Science Gallery."


"Niches, where previously located windows were removed, provide space for the display of current science advancements in cancer research. Each niche will display colorful photos, charts and text and are wired for interactive Audio Visual displays for those who choose to delve further into the science."


"New waiting rooms that spin around the 12 story slate covered elevator tower serve both the existing cancer building (replacing existing waiting rooms) and the new expansion."


"All waiting rooms are in the central 12 story atrium space where natural light floods in from floor to ceiling glass curtain walls. Some of the waiting rooms have dramatic high ceilings. The slate tile is in an ashlar pattern from floor line to 12' and then subtly shifts to a stack bond from the 12' line to the next floor line. This reinforces architectural banding on both interior and exterior of the building."


"The contemporary design and warm tones are expressed in is semicircular reception desk at the entrance to the faculty office suite."


"Again - the use of interacting and floating planes are used, defying the natural "heaviness" of the granite transaction surface."

"Generation teaching generation is the greatest gift our industry has to offer younger practitioners."

"Light floods in from the glass skin that encloses the building."


"Natural light is both a more uplifting, healing element, and also is a free source of light, cutting down on the energy consumption requirement and the heat generated from electric lights which requires additional energy for mechanical systems. The "Low E" glass allows as much light as possible without excessive heat gain in summers or loss in winters."


"The building is also about the intersection of geometric forms and planes creating a rich overlapping pattern."


"12 floors of the patterns begin to set a tapestry and unique rhythmic texture."

"A twelve story monumental stair spans the entire height of the building and encourages building users to live a healthier life style by using stairs (when physically able) for trips between adjacent floors and reduces energy consumption required for elevator access."


"The views to the Arkansas State Capitol and down town Little Rock are the center piece to the stair that cantilevers out to a glass curtain wall on both the south and east side."