Nature scenes inspire at new Ipswich Macmillan cancer centre

Giant murals are bringing the outdoors to patients at the new £4.7m Woolverstone Macmillan Cancer Centre in Suffolk, thanks to a collaboration between leading arts & health consultants Willis Newson and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The new Woolverstone Macmillan Centre at Ipswich was completed in June 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, it also meant it wasn’t always possible to discuss information in private, or for everyone to have family and friends with them during their treatment.

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 patients and their friends and family are welcomed with carefully designed interiors and courtyards which incorporate art.

The new design has created an improved therapeutic fit-for-purpose space, which will allow more people to be seen each year (21,000, up from only 9,000), new chemo suites, additional treatment bays, a separate teenage/young adult area, ‘Quiet Rooms’ and a dedicated Staff Room.

Willis Newson worked with Ipswich Hospital, construction partner Kier, interior designers from ADP architects and landscape designers, Fira on the Macmillan project.


Willis Newson worked with the Macmillan Cancer Support team to produce an arts strategy, to consult and engage patients and then commissioned artists to produce work for the space.

Creative Director of Willis Newson, Bronwen Gwillim, delivered a series of creative engagement workshops to get to the heart of how patients wanted their new space to look and feel.

Bronwen commented: “I’ve been involved with arts and healthcare for 25 years and I know from experience that art can make a huge difference to the feel of the building.

“With this project we knew we had the chance to create somewhere really special to support the healing and wellbeing of Macmillan’s patients.

“We wanted the centre to have a unique identity, something really unique to Suffolk, and the response we got from the staff and patients really helped to develop that.

Patients in the workshop were asked to think about their favourite place and the sensory and emotional experience of being there.  They then described this place by making a simple mood board and writing words and poems.

The countryside and coastline of Suffolk emerged strongly as a theme to inspire both the artwork and interior design of the centre.

This idea was then developed into three complementary nature-based themes which are used throughout the unit to aid way-finding and navigation.

The themes create an authentic sense of place and connection to the local area by reflecting local Suffolk scenery from woodland, coastal and heathland areas.

Artists Carry Akroyd and Julia Allum created large-scale murals inspired by the perspectives shared by patients in the consultation 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.

They include scenes from the Suffolk landscape, including the Orwell Bridge, the beach at Southwold and a typical heathland scene. They are situated in the entrance and the patients’ waiting area, in order to create a positive first impression and to provide a pleasant distraction for any patients who are anxious or stressed about their visit.


Kristine Lea, 56, a former psychiatric nurse from Holbrook is one of the team of patients brought together to help design the artwork.

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.”

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

Artworks have also been integrated into the interior and exterior spaces in other resourceful ways to enhance the design and functionality of the Woolverstone Macmillan Cancer Centre.

Detailed botanical illustrations of local flowers have been used on movable screens in treatment spaces, increasing modesty, privacy and dignity for patients and visitors.

3 laser-cut screens 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.

Kwesi Marles, Design Lead for Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We seek to create spaces in which patients’ needs come first and that reassure and reflect the excellent and expert care being delivered.

“Art can lift the spirits, calm troubled minds and provide welcome distraction. By introducing art into the cancer centre at Ipswich we seek to create unexpected delight.”

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