Heidelberg, Germany

In a sunlit lab filled with genotyping equipment, Dr. Christof von Kalle and colleagues at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) plumb the secrets of cellular mechanisms that create cancers. That is the future. Downstairs on a terrace bordering a sculpted garden, outpatients walk the grueling path that cancer demands right now.
The new $42 million facility near old Heidelberg, Germany, is one of relatively few top-level laboratories to bring fundamental research and frontline patient care under a single roof. This spirit of collaboration is what drives the architectural themes of the 141,000-square-foot building, which opened last October, designed by Behnisch Architekten, the Stuttgart-based shop of partners Stefan Behnisch, David Cook, and Martin Haas.
Built on five floors, including the basement and a sunken garden, the NCT is composed of two main elements: a rectangular plinth wrapped in green reflective glass, and a white stucco 'floating' volume set on top of it, with a punched-hole facade offset at irregular intervals. Operable windows, a terrace, and a balcony connect occupants to the fresh air outside. The central atrium sits at the heart of the building, connecting the disparate elements inside: the lab research floors, the day clinics, and administration.
The atrium is designed to encourage collaboration among different users of the building. Walking inside through the main entrance, one's eye is drawn to a sculpture of the late physician Mildred Scheel in full stride. Scheel founded German Cancer Aid, a nonprofit that funds the NCT, which is a joint project of the University of Heidelberg's Medical School and the Helmholtz Association's German Cancer Research Center. The 5,113-square-foot entrance hall opens around Scheel's likeness, with a freestanding multilevel staircase guiding visitors inside and up.
'What we are doing with this atrium space is making it as complex as possible,' Behnisch architect Peter Schlaier says over coffee in the open caf' on the first level, around a bend and opposite the staircase. 'It feels like a little city. You have streets, places, pathways. From every point the atrium looks different; it's always interesting, you have a lot of different situations.' Patients, researchers, and physicians mingle in the natural eddies created by the angled design of the spaces around the atrium shaft, where they can interact.
Three upper floors connect to this central space. One side of the building houses the research labs, with their higher-than-standard floor-to-floor requirements. On the other side, on the ground and first floors, one finds the day clinics, consulting and examining rooms, lecture and exercise rooms, and the specialist tumor board consulting hall. Administrative offices are mixed throughout, with the bulk on the upper level. A basement level connects the NCT to nearby buildings and a sunken garden level.
These connections integrate the NCT into the small city called Neuenheimer Feld, the university's massive medical and mathematics campus, which is located across the river from Heidelberg's old town. Here, postwar architecture reigns. Passageways connect many of the buildings underneath the greens. The NCT mostly serves clinical outpatients, but it can take gurneys in its big elevators and broad basement halls to bring patients from the advanced heavy-ion therapy lab across the garden or the nearby children's clinic.
The lower levels also mark the foundation of the building's ventilation system. Large loops of 0.31-inch-diameter pipes are embedded inside the floor slabs, coordinated with structural reinforcement, explains Behnisch partner David Cook. The soffits of the in situ slabs are exposed, and the building mass itself serves as a form of thermal storage. Depending on heating or cooling requirements, hot or cold water is pumped through the slabs, allowing the superstructure to function as a radiant device.
Air flows from bottom to top in a hybrid system of natural and artificial ventilation. An intake in a nearby garden draws fresh air underground, where it is either cooled or heated; it circulates through the building up to the folded-construction concrete slab roof, which opens over the atrium to north-facing skylights.
Of great importance is the ability to open windows, Schlaier remarks, adding that this is especially true for chemo patients who perk up when exposed to fresh breezes, as do tired physicians and researchers. The day clinic labs have additional domestic details ' they feature curtains, for instance, and wooden floors. Chemo chairs are designed to lend the impression of a living room, located near views and open windows. Patients can move around freely, spending time on the terrace, balcony, or further afield.
As a whole, the NCT is organized as a think tank for clinical trials. 'It's all about moving promising findings from the laboratory bench to the bedside of the patient,' says NCT spokeswoman Alenka Tschischka. Chance encounters among medical professionals, from spare moments in the caf' to downtime in the lab, may well spark the innovative ideas that eventually become important medical realities for patients.

Completion Date: October 2010

Total construction cost: $35 million

Gross square footage: 141,000 gross square feet


Deutsche Krebshilfe e.V./Dr. Mildred Scheel Stiftung
Buschstraße 32
53113 Bonn

Behnisch Architekten
Stefan Behnisch, David Cook, Martin Haas
Rotebühlstraße 163A
70197 Stuttgart
T +49 711 607720
F +49 711 6077299

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Partner-in-charge: David Cook

Project leader: Andreas Hardegger

Architect of record: Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart

Interior designer: Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart

Structural: MEP and Climate Engineering: ZWP Zibell, Willner und Partner Ingenieur AG

Landscape: Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart

Lighting: Belzner Holmes LDE

Acoustical: ITA Ingenieurgesellschaft für Technische Akustik mbH

Other: Medicine technics: woernerundpartner planungsgesellschaft mbH

General contractor: for concrete superstructure:
Leonhardt + Weiß

Adam Mørk, Frank Ockert
Ph: +45 35 85 8160; +49 711 22070000

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
AutoCAD, MSoffice, Adobe



Exterior cladding
Masonry: Leonhardt + Weiß

Aluminium/ Wood/ glass curtainwall: rossmanith fensterbau GmbH & Co.KG

Concrete: Leonhardt + Weiß

Built-up roofing: Essenpreis Holzbau und –bedachungen GmbH

Other: Green roof: Essenpreis Holzbau und –bedachungen GmbH

Wood/Aluminium:, HolzGlasVision e.K.

Aluminum: rossmanith fensterbau GmbH & Co. KG

Glass: rossmanith fensterbau GmbH & Co. KG, HolzGlasVision e.K.

Skylights: rossmanith fensterbau GmbH & Co. KG

Metal doors: External doors: rossmanith fensterbau GmbH & Co. KG / HolzGlasVision e.K.

Wood doors: Internal doors: Strähle Raum-Systeme GmbH / Ohning Innenausbau GmbH

Fire-control doors, security grilles: Ohning Innenausbau GmbH

Closers: Möbelbau Sayda GmbH

Cabinet hardware:  Wesemann GmbH Laboreinrichtungen

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: R & M Ausbau Mannheim

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: R & M Ausbau Mannheim

Paints and stains: Coloris GmbH

Special surfacing: T & M Ausbau Mannheim

Floor and wall tile: Fliesen Krause

Resilient flooring: raumstudio falter GmbH & Co. KG

Carpet: raumstudio falter GmbH & Co. KG

Raised flooring: raumstudio falter GmbH & Co. KG

Office furniture: FaArper Viasit, OKA

Chairs:  Hussl, Arper, Casprini, OKA, Bimos

Tables:  Viasit, FormVorRat

Downlights: XLA, Phillips

Exterior:  Bega

Elevators/Escalators: Alois Kasper GmbH