Maggie’s Centre in Oldham is supporting cancer with greenery, light and love

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Maggie’s Centre in Oldham provides free practical and emotional support for people living with cancer, and offers a welcome escape from the hospital.

Co-founded by American cultural theorist, landscape designer and architectural historian Charles Jencks, who sadly passed away in October 2019, the centres don’t look anything like traditional hospitals.

The legacy Jencks left behind is one of greenery, light, and love, born from a vision for a practical, anti-institutional, undaunting facility that would sit on hospital grounds and raise the spirits of its patients.

Designed by agency dRMM, Oldham’s centre is raised on six columns that shelter a garden framed by pine, birch and tulip trees.

At the centre of the light-filled building a mature tree has been left in situ as a powerful ‘emblematic presence’.

Thermally modified tulipwood planks clad the exterior, whilst inside views of the Pennines reach for miles.

Floor and furniture colours chosen for their light-reflectiveness add a positive psychological impact, whilst metal door handles have been eschewed in favor of oak to grant relief to chemotherapy patients who feel pain touching cold objects.

The form of the building, including the materials, palette, and the detailing, demonstrate considerable thoughtfulness.

The 260m2 timber structure pioneered the use of hardwood CLT and wood fibre insulation to create a breathable, healthy environment – challenging the paradigm of unhealthy hospitals.

As judge Hana Loftus puts it: “They are an amazing organisation doing incredible things – such impact… part of the concept is that it’s the architecture that makes the difference.”

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