Tucking In a New Tower

Construction of the David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care is pushing Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to think outside the box to fit the building to a dense area of Manhattan

The new David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care in New York isn’t just being built to adorn the Manhattan skyline—it will also pave the way for new innovations in cancer research that could change the lives of countless patients in the future.

The center is part of a complex development that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK)—a New York-based cancer-treatment organization with locations throughout New York and New Jersey—is completing in partnership with the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Hunter College. The 66,111-square-foot lot will accommodate nearly 1.2 million gross square feet—750,000 for MSK and 403,000 for CUNY—and it’s slated for completion in 2019. The project was made possible by a $150 million commitment from David H. Koch, a longtime MSK member, and the donation represents the largest single gift in the hospital’s history.

“The creation of this outstanding facility will be a real game changer for MSK,” said MSK president and chief executive officer Craig B. Thompson, in a 2015 statement. “We will be able to offer cutting-edge therapies and an expanded roster of innovative clinical trials to more patients than ever. The knowledge gained from the work conducted inside the David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care will benefit cancer patients around the world.”

Before that life-changing work can be done inside the walls, however, construction teams need to figure out the complex puzzle of fitting the 23-story ambulatory care center in a densely packed array of hospital and medical facilities on Manhattan’s Upper East Side—one of the most crowded pieces of real estate in the United States. Instead of expanding outward, the design by Perkins Eastman and Ennead Architects will rise, a tower made up of cantilevered boxes separated by terraces that will allow light to flood through the entire structure. Even better, the building’s location, on the banks of the East River, will ensure that daylight will never be blocked by new structures that might surround the center in the future.

A project this large, with multiple interests, demands special attention to make sure that all neighbors and stakeholders are up to speed on the construction process, so MSK and CUNY organized a Construction Working Group to keep lines of communication open among all stakeholders in the vicinity of the East 74th Street site. Members of the working group include the project team; representatives of neighboring buildings in the area between East 72nd and East 76th Streets; and relevant city agencies, community board officials, and elected officials. The group’s goal is to provide solutions in a timely manner to construction concerns affecting the community, largely through monthly meetings that allow participants an opportunity to review questions or complaints that have arisen since the previous meeting and discuss actions that might need to taken in response.

MSK, which cares for more cancer patients than any other hospital in the Northeast, currently delivers outpatient treatment to an average of 4,700 patients each day, across multiple locations, including seven outpatient facilities outside Manhattan. In the next 10 years, that figure is estimated to increase by 60 percent. Looking ahead, the David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care will enable MSK to respond to the growing need through greater efficiencies, lower costs, and enhanced patient convenience.

Work inside the center will include novel clinical trials, providing patients with access to the latest treatment options. An outpatient bone marrow transplant unit will conduct lifesaving procedures that once required strict isolation and lengthy hospital stays. The building will also include a full array of cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic services.

“It is my ardent hope now that the new Center for Cancer Care will transform cancer treatment worldwide, with the utmost emphasis on the needs of patients and their families,” the center’s namesake, David Koch, said in a statement. “I am honored to support this important work.”


Thornton Tomasetti is a proud partner with Memorial Sloan Kettering on its new state-of-the-art facility in New York. We provide engineering design, investigation and analysis services worldwide on projects of every size and level of complexity. We strive to be the global driver of change and innovation in our industry.