After an arduous journey, Steven Holl's Maggie's Centre is finally open. The new $10 million London care center, as with all Maggie’s Centres, will offer free emotional and practical support to cancer patients. This particular center, however, was marred by controversy—not something you would expect from a building designed to help sick people. The center is the latest for Maggie's, the charity founded by Charles Jencks in 1995 after his wife, Maggie Keswick Jencks, died of cancer. The couple believed in the uplifting power of architecture and have since installed more than 20 centers across the world, the majority of which are in the U.K. Nestled into a neoclassical enclave on the grounds of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in central London, Holl's Maggie's Center very nearly never happened. For his design to be built, a rudimentary brick building from the 1960s had to come down. But that wasn’t the issue. Instead, the project’s adversaries argued that the new center didn’t connect with its surroundings. This is nothing new with Maggie’s Centers across the U.K., even though Jencks has previously enlisted architecture’s A-list to design the structures, which are independent from nearby hospitals. Jencks has tapped Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, Rem Koolhaas, and soon Daniel Libeskind, with a center in Hampstead. A page from Charles Jencks’ The Architecture of Hope: Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres shows the site plan of all centers (before Holl’s was built). Here we can see green cytoplasm shrouding the Maggie’s Center nuclei; almost all the centers are one story and are surrounded by a protective grass lawn. On such a tight site, there was no room for greenery, on the ground level at least. The first Maggie’s Center to reach three stories, Holl’s design incorporates a roof garden overlooking a centuries-old quadrangle that includes the 1740s church of St. Bartholomew-the-Less. In a recent lecture at the World Architecture Festival, British architect and planner Sir Terry Farrell referenced Frank Gehry’s center in Dundee, Scotland (full disclosure: I work in communications at Farrell's firm). He argued that the building exacerbated the dichotomy between the brilliantly designed and the under-designed. Who wouldn’t want a pristine lawn to protect from the encroaching drab contemporary hospital vernacular? At St. Bartholemew’s, which is Europe's oldest hospital, such banal healthcare architecture cannot be found. Despite this, Holl's Maggie’s Center is at peace with its neighbors. After calls for modifications, the center shares a basement, toilets, and elevators with the adjacent 18th century Great Hall, a landmarked work of architect James Gibbs. Even these changes were nearly not enough. Holl's design scraped through the second round of planning by one vote and even after that, a lawsuit was filed against the planners. "I flew in from New York and they gave me three minutes in a courtroom. That was it!" Holl recalled, laughing. Wrapping the building is a facade that at night reveals the squares of color embedded, offering a hazy glow. During the day, this color palette is significantly muted and the glass skin is more of a misty gray. Outside, visitors can also see a rounded corner design, which is mirrored inside by a bamboo staircase that traces the perimeter as it winds upward. Holl calls this the “basket” and a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel,” a reference to the concrete structural shell that lies between the glass and bamboo. No attempt has been made to hide this structure, and the result is a pleasing display of both tectonics and tactile design in harmony. According to the Holl, the glass is a new invention. Comprising two layers of insulation, the embedded color film channels light out at night and blurs it during the day. The colored squares are also a reference to Medieval music's "neume notation." “It couldn’t be glossy!” exclaimed Holl. “There are too many glass buildings today.” The architect continued: "Jencks thinks I'm a postmodernist, however, this building is for architecture a manifesto for the expression of materials; [it stands] against everything pomo was." “In my 40 years of practice, this is one of my favorite buildings I’ve ever done,” Holl said.
Posts tagged with "Maggie's Cancer Centre":
Hospitals can often be bleak settings, awash in florescent lighting and beige hues that do little to bolster the mission of healing and recovery. However, Maggie's Centre— an organization that provides free support and services for people living with cancer and their families—has made great strides in elevating the healthcare environment (and experience) through design, making it an uplifting, welcoming, and aesthetically-pleasing place to heal. This has been accomplished by tapping some of the most well-known talent in the field—Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Snohetta, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, and Richard Rogers—to design centers at NHS cancer hospitals, which boasts 18 facilities and several more in the process of being built. Now Heatherwick Studio is on board with a garden-inspired center on the campus of St. James's Institute of Oncology, one of the largest cancer hospitals in Europe. Planned to be one of the largest centers, according to Heatherwick Studio, the new building is made of a series of different-sized containers, resembling "a collection of garden pots," enclosed by flat sheets of glass that protect against the elements. Intended for both visitors and passersby to enjoy, the building's exterior will overflow with greenery as trees and plants sprout from the roofs and flora grows in and around the structures. Wallpaper reported that the center will be built adjacent to the hospital's oncology unit and sit among several gardens designed by Marie-Louise Agius of the landscape design firm Balston Agius. "Surrounded by the huge and complex medical machine for healing we wanted to capture the positive and therapeutic experience of plants and see if it could be possible to make a whole building out of a garden," explained Heatherwick Studio on their website. The center will open its doors in 2017.
The shortlist for the coveted annual Stirling Prize from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has been announced! With six contesting projects to choose from, judges will begin visiting all six sites and will convene for a final vote on October 13, 2012. Among the six shortlisted projects are Maggie’s Cancer Centre and New Court Rothschild Bank, both by the OMA, London's new Olympic Stadium by Populous, and David Chipperfield’s Wakefield, the Barbara Hepworth sculpture gallery in Yorkshire. Founded in 1966, The RIBA Stirling Prize is given annually to a building and its practice, honoring the project as the “greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year.” Unlike the Pritzker Prize which acknowledges an architect for lifetime achievement, the Stirling honors a practice for one building per year, allowing projects to gain more recognition as they’re built. Along with a £20,000 prize, the Stirling also comes with front page news coverage and television promotions on channels like the BBC 2, giving architecture the fame and exposure that it rarely gets in society today. Regarding the shortlisted projects, RIBA President Angela Brady expressed her ambivalence, as all the projects are on par with each other on levels of success and aesthetics. “All of the shortlisted buildings demonstrate the essence of great architecture; they are human-scale buildings, places to inspire, entertain, educate and comfort their visitors and passers-by," she said in a statement. "Every building not only works beautifully from within but has a superb relationship with its surroundings, with a strong interplay between the two. They don’t shout ‘look at me’ and even the tallest building, New Court in the City of London, has created good views for passing pedestrians, meeting the challenge of delivering good urban design in an historic area.” Take a look at the rest of the contesting projects: