Tameside Macmillan Unit: Art and interiors

Cancer patients at Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are benefitting from a major redevelopment of their local Macmillan Unit, which now offers an improved experience for patients in an inspiring new environment.

We worked with Macmillan, architects IBI and landscape designers KKE Architects to totally reimagine the space architecturally and artistically.

The redesigned space brings different services under one roof, minimising patient travel, maximising natural light and demonstrating Macmillan’s patient-centred approach to cancer care.  

We led a creative engagement workshop at the start of the process with Macmillan staff, patients, the architects and landscape designers, to create a joined-up, patient-focused approach to the art, building and landscape design.

Tameside Macmillan Unit

Participants in the creative consultation sessions all shared their appreciation of the value of ‘walking in nature’ as a healing experience, and of the beauty of their local scenery.

“Journeys through the Landscapes of Tameside” became the overarching theme for the project, creating a supportive environment for patients by bringing to mind the reassuring rhythm, repetition and movement of walking.

The workshop participants also ‘mapped’ the journey through the spaces of the new unit from the emotional view point of the patient, identifying key locations where art might be particularly beneficial.

We used their insights to create a shared Ats & Interiors strategy with moodboards and materials lists for the project team to work with.

The shared vision ensured a strong cohesion to the team and to the development of the new Unit, creating a clear connection between the architecture, interiors and artworks, all inspired by patients.

Chris Tipping

Willis Newson commissioned artist Chris Tipping to work with the project team to create a welcoming, healing environment for patients, with integrated artworks providing a connection with nature and the beautiful local landscapes of Tameside.

Tipping created a large-scale panorama which takes patients and visitors on a walk inspired by a real 12 mile hike he took through the local countryside with a former patient.

Tipping’s distinctive artworks unify the different areas, creating a local, patient-centred identity for the unit and subtly supporting journeys through the space, from the airy open reception into more intimate treatment areas.

During the creative engagement workshop, Patient Representative Stuart Ramsden gave an inspiring account of a specific walk he used to enjoy during his treatment, which was unanimously chosen by the group to provide the inspiration for the central artwork in the new centre.

Tipping accompanied Stuart on his 12 mile favourite walk, talking and capturing images along the way.

Chris Tipping artist

From this, Chris created a palette of ‘icons’, including wild garlic, waving grasses, boulder shapes and brick patterns, which offer a sophisticated representation of the local urban and moor landscapes.

The icons are repeated and layered on designs throughout the centre, from flexible screens used to create privacy in the treatment area, through to external glazing and a large feature artwork on the new curved wall.

They speak directly of the local landscape and allow moments of connection with and reflection on the natural world, which is hugely beneficial to wellbeing and positive patient experience.

Tameside Macmillan Unit

Artwork impact

Printed onto durable vinyl wall covering, the feature artwork is not a linear narrative or a conventional landscape, so it can be experienced from different directions and interpreted in different ways.

This rewards repeated viewing for patients who have to return to the centre regularly, allowing them to find new details and new ways to explore the artwork each time.

Using gentle, calming colours and an abstract style, the feature wall takes patients and visitors on a journey, both through the physical space and through an imaginative depiction of the local area.

At the entrance, a bright red line (evocative of maps and route planning) describes the shape of Stuart’s favourite 12 mile walk and draws the eye around the space, emphasising the generous proportions of the double height wall and the natural light.

Tameside Macmillan Unit reception area

The new unit offers a special environment, light and airy with interesting spaces and high quality materials. The design reflects the rich landscapes of the local area and acts as a physical representation of the quality of care that staff provide.

The distinctive artworks match that approach, unifying the different areas, creating a patient-centred identity for the unit and supporting flow through the space from the open reception area into more intimate treatment spaces.

In the redevelopment the holistic, person-centred approach to integrating architecture, art and interiors mirrors Macmillan Cancer Support’s person-centred holistic approach to patient care.


 Images by Jill Tate



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.

“On 27th February Stewart and I set out on a walk, a Stewart Ramsden ‘Ramtrail’, through Tameside. Our conversations and reflections about our journey and the Macmillan Unit Project on that day was a personally rewarding experience for me and formed the inspiration and subject matter for this project. The process was further informed by a collective enthusiasm and passion for the project, which was evident throughout. The sense of common ownership in this project is hugely rewarding.”

Chris Tipping