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Maggie’s at the Robert Parfett Building

The new Maggie’s Cancer Centre in the grounds of The Christie Hospital in Manchester was opened by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall – the president of Maggie’s. Design by Lord Norman Foster, who was born and raised in Manchester and is a cancer survivor. The new centre will further the charity’s aim to provide free practical, emotional and social support to cancer patients across the UK.

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© Nigel Young

Arranged over a single storey, the natural timber structure focuses around a wide, central spine with the roof rising in the centre to create a mezzanine level beautifully illuminated with natural light. Exposed lightweight beams and timber lattice support the roof while also defining different spaces.

An integrated glass house extends from the south of the building, providing a space for people to gather and enjoy the therapeutic qualities of nature and the outdoors while the interior palette combines warm, natural wood and tactile fabrics.

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© Nigel Young

The surrounding gardens have been designed by landscape designer Dan Pearson, combining a rich mix of spaces, from the working glass house to bright clusters of flowers and tranquil water features. The colours and sensory experience of nature will become part of the Centre through micro gardens and internal courtyards, which relate to the different spaces within the building.

Deep canopies will shelter the Centre’s open terraces from rain, allowing people to enjoy fresh air and the garden whatever the weather.

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© Nigel Young

“I have first-hand experience of the distress of a cancer diagnosis and understand how important Maggie’s Centres are as a retreat offering information, sanctuary and support. Our aim in Manchester, the city of my youth, was to create a building that is welcoming, friendly and without any of the institutional references of a hospital or health centre – a light-filled, homely space where people can gather, talk or simply reflect. That is why throughout the building there is a focus on natural light, greenery and views; with a greenhouse to provide fresh flowers, and an emphasis on the therapeutic qualities of nature and the outdoors. The timber frame, helps to connect the building with the surrounding greenery – externally, this structure will be partially planted with vines, making the architecture appear to dissolve into the gardens.” – Lord Foster / Chairman and Founder of Foster + Partners

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© Nigel Young

Maggie’s Centres provide a welcoming ‘home away from home’ – a place of refuge where people affected by cancer can find emotional and practical support. The design of the Manchester centre establishes a domestic atmosphere in a garden setting with a greenhouse and a veranda. The centre accommodates a range of spaces from intimate private niches to a library.

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© Nigel Young

Naturally illuminated by triangular roof lights, the building is supported by lightweight timber lattice beams. The beams act as partitions between different internal areas, visually dissolving the architecture into the gardens. The timber beams are designed as trusses that reflect the magnitude and orientation of the loads acting on them, anything superfluous to the structural support has been removed.

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© Nigel Young

The design uses Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) timber with no visible fixing between the pieces. The diagonal arrangement of the trusses across the central spine provides stability to the roof without the need for additional elements. The desire to create a low energy, homely environment with natural ventilation and daylight defined the design.

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© Nigel Young

Foster + Partners:

Located across Britain and abroad, Maggie’s Centres are conceived to provide a welcoming ‘home away from home’ – a place of refuge where people affected by cancer can find emotional and practical support. Inspired by the blueprint for a new type of care set out by Maggie Keswick Jencks, they place great value upon the power of architecture to lift the spirits and help in the process of therapy. The design of the Manchester centre aims to establish a domestic atmosphere in a garden setting and, appropriately, is first glimpsed at the end of a tree-lined street, a short walk from The Christie Hospital and its leading oncology unit.

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© Nigel Young

The building occupies a sunny site and is arranged over a single storey, keeping its profile low and reflecting the residential scale of the surrounding streets. The roof rises in the centre to create a mezzanine level, naturally illuminated by triangular roof lights and it is supported by lightweight timber lattice beams. The beams act as natural partitions between different internal areas, visually dissolving the architecture into the surrounding gardens.

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© Nigel Young

The centre combines a variety of spaces, from intimate private niches to a library, exercise rooms and places to gather and share a cup of tea. The heart of the building is the kitchen, which is centred on a large, communal table. Institutional references, such as corridors and hospital signs have been banished in favour of home-like spaces. To that end the materials palette combines warm, natural wood and tactile fabrics. Staff will be unobtrusive, yet close and accessible. Support offices are placed on a mezzanine level positioned on top of a wide central spine, with toilets and storage spaces below, maintaining natural visual connections across the building.

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© Nigel Young

Throughout the centre, there is a focus on natural light, greenery and garden views. The rectilinear plan is punctuated by landscaped courtyards and the entire western elevation extends into a wide veranda, which is sheltered from the rain by the deep overhang of the roof. Sliding glass doors open the building up to a garden setting created by Dan Pearson Studio. Each treatment and counselling room on the eastern façade faces its own private garden. The south end of the building, extends to embrace a greenhouse – a celebration of light and nature – The greenhouse provides a garden retreat, a space for people to gather, to work with their hands and enjoy the therapeutic qualities of nature and the outdoors. It will be a space to grow flowers and other produce that can be used at the centre giving the patients a sense of purpose at a time when they may feel at their most vulnerable.

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© Nigel Young

The centre, designed and engineered by Foster + Partners, also features bespoke furniture designed by Norman Foster with Mike Holland who heads out the industrial design team in the practice. These include kitchen units and table, sideboards and other shelving units.

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© Nigel Young

Project Data:

Project name: Maggie’s at the Robert Parfett Building
Location: The Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, 15 Kinnaird Road, Manchester, M20 4QL, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 53.428446, -2.225295
Type: Rehabilitation Center
Site area: n/a
Project area: 1,922 sqm
Status: Built
Completion: 2016
Opening Date: April 26, 2016
Visit Maggie’s Website: here

Awards:

  • 2017 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA REGIONAL AWARD – RIBA North West Award – Winner
  • 2017 – ArchDaily Building of the Year Award – Category: Healthcare Architecture – Winner
  • 2016 – The Wood Awards – Arnold Laver Gold Award & Structural Award – Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: The Maggie Keswick Jencks Cancer Caring Centres Trust
Architects:

Design Team:

  • Norman Foster, David Nelson, Spencer de Grey, Stefan Behling, Darron Haylock, Diego Alejandro Teixeira Seisedos, Xavier De Kestelier, Mike Holland, Richard Maddock, Daniel Piker, Elisa Honkanen

Main Contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine

Timber Design and Build Contractor: Blumer Lehmann

Engineers:

  • Structural Engineer: Foster + Partners – Roger Ridsdill Smith, Andrea Soligon, Karl Micallef, Mateusz Bloch
  • Environmental Engineer: Foster + Partners – Piers Heath, Evangelos Giouvanos, Nathan Millar
  • Fire Engineer: Thouria Istephan, Michael Woodrow

Consultants:

  • Quantity Surveyor: Gardiner & Theobald
  • Landscape Consultant: Dan Pearson Studio
  • Lighting Consultant: Cundall
  • Planning Advisor: IBI Taylor Young
  • Approved Inspector: AIS (Approved Inspector Services)
  • Greenhouse consultant: Fleur de Lys

Text Description: © Courtesy of Foster + Partners, Maggie’s
Images: © Foster + Partners, Nigel Young

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