Architecture + Cancer: Studio honors deceased student

ARCHITECTURE + CANCER: An Architectural Inquiry on Cancer Treatment Centers
In Loving Memory of Dina Radjabalipour

Architecture + Cancer Studio Poster (PDF)

Architecture + Cancer: An Architectural Inquiry of Cancer Care Centers (online publication)


Paul Hirzel, professor, School of Design and Construction, (509) 335-1373,

Tina Hilding, communications coordinator, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, (509) 335-5095,

Students design for better cancer care in late classmate’s memory

PULLMAN, Wash. – As Dina Radjabalipour fought her losing battle with cancer last year, the Washington State University architecture graduate student wanted to come up with a design for better treatment center.

Instead of stark rooms with glaring florescent lighting and vinyl floors that made her feel weak and depressed, she dreamed of a facility that would give hope to cancer patients.

She died before she finished her project, but Paul Hirzel, a professor in the School of Design and Construction, dedicated this semester’s graduate studio course in her honor to designing a better treatment center.

The students will present their ideas and designs on Tuesday, April 26, at Pullman Regional Hospital, Conference Rooms C and D, at 11:30 a.m. The event is open to the public. The work will also be on display on the first floor of Carpenter Hall through May 7, and the students are publishing a book.

Approximately 580,000 people in the U.S. died from cancer in 2014, and more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed every year, according to the National Health Care Institute.

As part of the project, the students did a case study of a prototypical cancer care facility.  The infusion rooms, where cancer patients often sit for hours when receiving chemotherapy, are often windowless and drab. The hallways in the facilities can be a confusing maze that create extra challenges for exhausted patients. Furniture is non-descript.  Flooring and furniture are often made of vinyl, which has potential negative health effects, said Hirzel.

“Ironically, we are using materials in our hospitals that can cause health problems,’’ said Hirzel.

The students addressed the issues with a range of solutions. Providing views of vegetation can make a difference in a patient’s recovery by simply providing a positive distraction.

“The garden and the view from the patient room is critical,’’ said Hirzel, who is also a cancer survivor.   “What you are able to look at in a waiting room or in a patient room can have significant impact on your recovery time.’’

The students developed designs for infusion furniture that aim for lifting spirits or looked at the building’s use as a whole, combining an aquarium with a treatment center as a way to benefit both environments.

“It is our hope that this effort will provoke greater imagination in the design of new care facilities, and that Dina’s first steps toward a better world for cancer treatment will continue to be carried forward,’’ said Hirzel.