Maggie’s centres seek to provide ‘the architecture of hope’. They offer free practical and emotional support for people affected by cancer. Built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, the centres are safe and welcoming spaces. They lift the spirits and set the scene for people to draw on strengths they may not have realised they had in order to cope.
The design of Maggie’s Oldham is all this and more – less about form and more about content. A simple yet sophisticated wooden box of surprises. Supported on slender columns, the building floats above a new garden created with pine, birch and tulip poplar trees. A tree grows up through the building, bringing nature inside. On entering, the visitor is greeted by space, light and unexpected views down to the garden below, up to the sky, and out to the Pennine horizon.
The use of wood at Maggie’s Oldham is part of a bigger design intention to reverse the norms of hospital architecture, where clinical institutionalised environments can make patients feel dispirited. In wood there is hope, humanity, scale and warmth.
Maggie’s Oldham is the first permanent building constructed from sustainable tulipwood cross-laminated timber, following on from dRMM, AHEC and Arup’s development of this material. All of the walls and roof are visibly structure and form an exquisite natural timber finish internally. The tulipwood CLT has been carefully detailed to bring out its natural beauty – it’s fine, variegated finish is more like furniture than building. The slatted ceiling was created from wood left over from the CLT fabrication process, ensuring no waste.
We have considered the use of wood at every opportunity. As those undergoing chemotherapy sometimes feel pain on touching cold objects, oak rather than metal door handles have been used. Wood fibre insulation ensures a breathable, healthy environment whilst the huge window frames are American white oak. Externally the building is clad in an especially fluted, thermally modified tulipwood, a durable but theatrical ‘curtain’.
Maggie’s Oldham is a carefully made manifesto for the architecture of health, realised in wood. The project started in September 2014, gaining planning approval in late 2015. There was a great impetus to start (and finish) quickly by the client as the building was fully funded by the Stoller Charitable Trust. The project started on site in April 2016 and completed in June 2017. With over 400 visits a week – many more than expected – the building’s social impact is clear.
dRMM are recognised for creating architecture that is innovative, high quality and socially useful. We are a Stirling prize-winning practice based in London and founded in 1995 by Alex de Rijke, Philip Marsh, and Sadie Morgan. Our high profile, award-winning projects include Trafalgar Place, Maggie’s Oldham, Hastings Pier, Faraday House and Clapham Manor Primary School. We owe our reputation to an incredibly talented and resourceful team, who work in the belief that outstanding architecture comes about through client collaboration, creative design, environmental awareness, and building innovation. We go out of our way to understand and realise client needs through detailed research and careful practice. We use standardised, cost-effective materials and building methods to make innovative architecture. For this, and our lightness of touch, the press and public have warmed to us and have described our architecture as joyful, flamboyant and unique.