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Willis Newson Truro design

Cancer centre in Truro benefits from artistic interventions

The Cove Macmillan Support Centre is a £2.8 million new building in Truro. Developed through close collaboration with a creative team, staff and patients, it is a distinctive, sensitive space.

The Cornish coastline is providing inspiration and refuge for patients at a new Macmillan Cancer support centre in Truro.

Artworks including shelves inspired by boats and paintings by renowned Cornwall-based painter Kurt Jackson have been integrated throughout The Cove Macmillan Support Centre, a £2.8 million new building located at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.


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Arts and health consultants Willis Newson worked in partnership with architects ADP and Macmillan Cancer Support to enhance the patient environment with paintings, furniture designs and wall vinyls all inspired by the surrounding Cornwall coastline.



The Cove Macmillan Support Centre aims to improve the lives of people affected by cancer in Cornwall by providing information and support, as well as benefits advice, complimentary therapies and other support services. The Centre provides a friendly, relaxed, and non-clinical environment with an information area, café, meeting spaces, rooms for support groups, counselling and complementary therapies. 


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The design, produced by architects ADP, is a simple yet elegant structure that evokes vernacular wooden coastal buildings. The coastal theme is continued in the interior, with joinery suggestive of boatbuilding techniques used on shelving and reception desks and paintings depicting the Cornish coastline adorning key walls.

Willis Newson worked closely with architects ADP and Macmillan Cancer Support to develop a shared vision and strategy for the art and interiors of the new building.

Informed and inspired by consultation with centre staff and patients, the strategy took into account the different lengths of time patients would spend in the centre, the emotional process patients go through and patient journeys through the space. The strategy set out to use high quality durable materials to ensure longevity of the design and the finish, as well as creating a sense of local relevance by working with Cornish artists, fabricators and suppliers and referencing the landscape in the artwork and interiors. It also aimed to use artworks to create uplifting moments at key locations and junctions in the buildings, along with bespoke artist-designed furniture to create a distinctive identity in more functional areas.


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Jane Willis, Director of Willis Newson commented:

“The idea from the start was to integrate art and interior design so that the resulting environment would be unique and special for patients, staff and visitors. “We wanted to create not only a calm and reassuring place, with carefully selected colours and high quality materials, but also a place that is full of character and offers moments of inspiration for people facing difficult times in their lives.”


The shared vision of the design team means that each element of the design works together harmoniously, with colours inspired by paintings which, in turn, are inspired by the building's location in Cornwall.

Renowned Cornish painter Kurt Jackson was selected as a key artist, with the selection and siting of his Cornish landscapes setting the flavour of the space and the interior colour palette for each room.

Furniture maker Scott Woyka was appointed to create a reception desk, cafe counter and shelving screen for the foyer using traditional boat-building techniques. These sculptural, yet practical, items of furniture reinforce the idea of The Cove as a safe harbour for patients.


Scott Woyka commented:

“We were absolutely delighted to be selected to make the furniture for this amazing project. The results are truly stunning and a credit to all involved. An innovation for us was to specially develop a new technique of double bending the planks for the shelving screen. As with many of our pieces, there was a lot of unseen work to achieve the desired subtle effect.”


Within the Centre there is also a separate space used for teens and young adults which needed a different ambience to the rest of the building.  Willis Newson consulted with young patients in the hospital to discover their preferences for artwork and then used that to inform the artist's brief and to recruit illustrator Chelsea Holter.


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The artist carried out further consultation with young people to ask what was special to them about Cornwall, answers to which included; the Eden project, surfing and spending time with friends.

Chelsea used their answers to create a large digital collage which was then translated into a vinyl wall mural in the young adult space. Chelsea also created a graphic motif which runs throughout the Centre - across windows, walls and even door signs - creating a subtle visual brand for The Cove Macmillan Centre which is then used alongside Macmillan Cancer Support corporate colours and fonts.

The end result of this close teamwork and careful consultation is a healthcare environment which has a clear, coherent identity that feels unmistakably Cornish and which offers a welcoming, supportive and healing space to cancer patients at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.



Find out more about Willis Newson's work at their website

Facebook: www.facebook.com/willisnewson 

Twitter: @willisnewson



Posted on 31 March 2017

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