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The Versatility of Architectural Materials

Mission Hospital Cancer Center’s waterfall


How did you design that Waterfall structure? The answer might surprise you.

TRO Jung|Brannen (TRO JB), an architectural firm experienced in healthcare design, uses concrete in its projects routinely. Dick Richard, AIA, says in one example, the firm’s 117,000 square foot Mission Cancer Center in Asheville, North Carolina, featured concrete in the design to achieve various purposes and architectural expressions. “My partner, Paul Langland, who was the project manager on this project, says that the deep concrete foundations and concrete retaining walls were essential to our project. Paul remarked that no other material can retain earth like concrete; some walls on this project are as much as thirty feet high,” said Richard.

Langland and his team were faced with a complex, sloping site that required substantial retaining walls in various locations. Concrete was the obvious choice to advance the structural design of these walls. We took advantage of the most dramatic slope on the site to create a 25 foot tall waterfall feature, which can be seen from the highway. While the waterfall itself, is adorned with a decorative, locally-harvested granite face and stone frame to represent material found in the regional Appalachian Mountains (an important factor in the project’s ultimate LEED Gold certification), it was concrete that supported the structure from behind and made the iconic architectural water feature possible.

In another application on this same project, Langland says that concrete walls up to eight feet thick were used, which is not unusual in cancer center construction. Together, those thick walls, constructed in both vertical side wall and horizontal floor and ceiling applications, form vaults which act as a shield for the highly radioactive beams produced by the linear accelerator equipment. To soften the building’s exterior where the concrete vault is located, TRO JB’s team developed an adjacent green space and bocci court. The resulting effect is quite welcoming, maybe too much so. Even the larger local wildlife, shown napping on one of the concrete walls, approved!

“Concrete is also a material we use when designing parking deck projects, which we have designed for many of our hospital clients,” said Richard. “Yes, we even used decorative, precast, concrete panels for our parking deck which supports the Mission Cancer Center,” said Langland. “The material can be utilitarian, cost effective, and design-enhancing, at the same time.”


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