Norman Foster breaks ground on Maggie’s cancer center in the UK

Architecture International News
Ceremony on April 24 celebrating the start of construction on the new Maggie's Center (Courtesy Foster + Partners)

Ceremony on April 22 celebrating the start of construction on the new Maggie’s Center (Courtesy Foster + Partners)

Maggie’s, a UK-based charitable organization providing assistance programs to patients with cancer, is building a new center within the grounds of the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

Eschewing the antiseptic reek and impersonality of a traditional hospital, the center strives to provide a homey atmosphere and support programs for cancer patients and their families in an uplifting, non-clinical environment. Designed by Norman Foster and Foster + Partners, the building sports a 20-foot-high timber frame as its main structure, and will be bordered by extensive gardens.

“Externally, this structure will be partially planted with vines, making the architecture appear to dissolve into the gardens,” said Foster in a statement, who cited his own brush with cancer diagnosis as a major galvanizer. The timber structure will be configured around a wide, central spine with a roof rising in the center to create a mezzanine level illuminated with natural light. Foster cited this in addition to “greenery and views” as the focus for the architecture in recognition of the therapeutic qualities of nature and the great outdoors.

“I believe in the power of architecture to lift the spirits and help in the process of therapy,” Foster added. “Great architecture is vital to the care Maggie’s offers, creating environments that are both calm and uplifting,” concurred Maggie’s Chief Executive, Laura Lee.

(Courtesy Foster + Partners)

(Courtesy Foster + Partners)

The single-story structure will be the charity’s largest center, and is expected to receive around 60,000 visits per year from across Greater Manchester. Lightweight and simple are emphasized above imposing and spartan, with exposed beams and a timber lattice supporting the roof and partitioning various spaces.

The interior palette, meanwhile, guns for a homey feel with warm, natural wood and tactile fabrics. “Visitors can gather around a big kitchen table, find a peaceful place to think, or they can work with their hands in the greenhouse,” Foster explained. A time capsule will be buried onsite containing personal mementos from donors and supporters of the center, as well as a sketch from Foster + Partners, the details of which are undisclosed.

Maggie’s relies on charitable donations to fund the inception and maintenance of its current network of 17 centers across the United Kingdom, each one designed by a different architect based on the same brief. The centers provide free practical and emotional support for cancer sufferers including nutrition workshops, psychological support, tai chi and yoga, relaxation and stress management, and art therapy.

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