Written by H. Weijer, Weijer Communicatie, for BOQUE 2018

Princess Máxima Centre in Utrecht 

How can you design a health centre that promotes the healing of child cancer?

LIAG Architects were happy to accept this almost impossible commission for the new Princess Máxima Centre for Paediatric Oncology in Utrecht. They found the key to combining cancer research and treatment for children in one building, says architect Thomas Bögl of LIAG Architecten.

The Princess Máxima Centre, the largest children's oncology centre in Europe, brings together the expertise in the field of care and research at the highest level. Bögl supported the desire to go to 90-100% child cancer cure in the design. And yes, that is possible. For example, by combining research and treatment in one centre. Research and experience show that if researchers are directly involved, the treatment improves enormously. This is reflected in the design in the way in which the architect created a natural course between inside and outside, and between the world of children and research. The main route is a meeting place for children, parents, doctors, nurses and researchers.


“One of the most beautiful eye-catchers is the central staircase with bamboo plates from MOSO,” says Paul Vriend from MOSO. It's about Bamboo Panels Side Pressed Caramel. These are made of giant bamboo trunks. After harvesting, the logs are sawn lengthwise into strips. These strips are naturally light yellow, but steamed they get the colour of caramel. In the Bamboo Panels Side Pressed Caramel, the strips are placed vertically next to each other and glued together. This variant has a fine line pattern in which the bamboo nodes are still subtly visible. In the Princess Maxima Centre, in addition to the steps, the banisters and stair posts are cladded with these bamboo panels. Just like the vertical columns on the facade and ceiling, bamboo panels were used. This gives these spaces a friendly, warm and open character, so that children and their family members immediately experience a homely feeling'.


“In other respects, the building design promotes better treatment of child cancer”, says architect Bögl: “It is important that the building should reduce stress. Everyone knows that if a child is affected by cancer, it causes enormous stress in the family. We have tried to solve this by parent-children rooms: a room for the child with a room for the parents connected to it.” These were developed in collaboration with Kopvol. Depending on the need, the rooms can be connected or separated by a sliding door. What is special is that each room has access to its own outdoor space.


Good acoustics is an important point to reduce stress. “We know from all kinds of studies we have done in advance that patients in hospitals don’t often sleep well. One of the reasons is noise pollution. Take the infusion pump: it is normally always next to the bed, and it makes quite a lot of noise. We solved that by making a tube through the wall to the pump, which is in the corridor.”

Natural materials

Natural materials also help to reduce stress in a room. “For example, the use of bamboo on the ceiling gives a warm atmosphere in the centre, which helps to create a feeling of home”, Bögl underlines the story of Paul Vriend of Moso. “In addition, bamboo is a sustainable material, in an otherwise very sustainable building. Because of the budget, it is not BREEAM certified, but it would otherwise have achieved Excellent.”