The Cove Macmillan Support Centre, Truro: Integrated artworks and furniture design

The Cove Macmillan Support Centre is a £2.8 million new building located next to the Sunrise and Mermaid Centres and close to the Headland Unit at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

It is funded by Macmillan Cancer Support 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. 

The design, produced by ADP Architects, 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.

Led by Creative Director, Bronwen Gwillim, Willis Newson worked closely with ADP Architects and Macmillan Cancer Support to develop a shared vision and strategy for the art and interiors of the new building.

The Cove Macmillan Cancer Support Centre

Cor-Ten steel sign chosen for it's texture and changing weathered appearance

Art Strategy

The art strategy set out the following aims and parameters for the project:

  • To use the best quality materials and durable finishes so that the design remains fresh and fit for purpose in the long term.
  • To provide uplifting moments at key locations through bespoke graphic imagery, and sculptural elements designed to work with the functional aspects of a specific location.
  • To explore ways of making connections between the architectural, interior and landscape design
  • To create a sense of local relevance by referencing Cornish culture and industry and using local artists and designers where possible
  • To integrate the brand of Macmillan Cancer Support into the building in a recognisable, yet unobtrusive way.

The idea was to integrate art and interior design so that the resulting environment would be unique and special: 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.

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.

From the outset it was determined that the team would use Cornish artists, fabricators and suppliers and that the names of rooms inside the building would reference Cornish coves. This firmly rooted the Centre in the local landscape and ensured that a strong identity was embedded from the start.


Willis Newson proposed that some of the building budget for furniture could be re-allocated and used to engage a craftsperson to make unique, high-impact and high-quality work. This attention to detail ensures that the end result is enduring, with a sense of solidity and longevity.

The design of the entrance and foyer area celebrates the idea of a cove or harbour as a welcoming and safe place, with the reception desk and shelving screen created by furniture maker Scott Woyka suggesting sculptural traditional boat forms.

The Cove, Macmillan Cancer Support Truro

Scott Woyka's reception desk made using boat-building techniques, with base colour selected to tone with Kurt Jackson's painting

Using boat building techniques such as profile cutting, routing and steam bending, Scott has created tactile curved surfaces using beautiful natural materials including wood and copper rivets.

These bring an element of nature into the space and invite careful consideration of just how these beautiful objects were created. This is particularly interesting in the context of a Cancer Support Centre where it may offer distraction to male patients who can often find these spaces difficult to inhabit comfortably.


In healthcare environments it is vital that artistic interventions are durable, cleanable and long-lasting, which makes using large scale paintings difficult. However, the design team knew that this effect was what they needed to create moments of inspiration and uplift for patients.

Willis Newson worked with renowned Cornwall-based painter Kurt Jackson to create and frame high quality large-scale digital prints of some of his Cornish landscape paintings.

The Cove, Macmillan Cancer Support

The print company used were based in Cornwall and special attention was paid to create prints of impeccable quality, so that visitors to the centre could appreciate both the visual effect of the paintings from a distance - light, water, changing seasons - and also the almost abstract energy of the brushstrokes and marks visible when viewed up close.

The selection and siting of the artworks set the flavour of the space and the interior colour palette for each room was chosen to complement the paintings. 


Image: Kurt Jackson painting in The Cove reception


Teenagers and Young Adults

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

Chelsea then created a large wall mural which has an overall calming effect, but which incorporates the young people's suggestions as small collaged images which are there if the patient chooses to look in more detail.

Artist Chelsea Holter in The Cove, macmillan centre in Truro

Artist Chelsea pictured with her wall mural in The Cove

Alongside this work Chelsea created a graphic motif which runs throughout the Centre - across windows, walls and even door signs - creating a subtle visual identity for The Cove Macmillan Centre which is then used alongside Macmillan Cancer Support corporate colours and fonts.

Door signage in The Cove Macmillan Cancer Support Centre

Image of the door sign featuring detail from Kurt Jackson paintings overlaid with text showing the name of a Cornish cove and Chelsea Holter's graphic motif



Images copyright Mike Newman


The facade is an efficient modern skin over the top of the existing structure, made of powder-coated aluminium and glass which will be easy to keep clean.