Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Maggie’s Centre : By Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

London, England
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Post By:Kitticoon Poopong
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
A new center offers cancer patients a peaceful place for care other institutions
cannot provide

In 1988, an extraordinary Scottish woman named Maggie Keswick Jencks was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a mother, a scholar who wrote and lectured about Chinese landscape gardening, a world traveler, and the wife of designer and critic Charles Jencks, not to mention an accomplished landscape designer in her own right. After surgery, and a five-year period of remission, the cancer returned. This time an aggressive strain attacked her bones, bone marrow, and liver. Maggie was also outgoing, articulate, and an often-published writer who was willing to try an extraordinary range of treatments and strategies as she fought for her life. She won a second period of remission, but finally succumbed to her disease in 1995. 

Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--A wall shields the unmarked entrance to Maggie’s Centre from heavy traffic on Fulham Palace Road. The cutout in the wall provides a glimpse into the building’s interior courtyard.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Toward the end of her life, one of Keswick Jencks’s doctors invited her to write an article about what she experienced for his medical journal. Her essay, “A View From the Front Line” (downloadable at maggiescentres.org), is a highly personal account of her life with cancer, coping with surgeries, confusion over the efficacy of treatment options, and the despair of life coming to an end. Not the least of her concerns was her experience that the cold, sterile institutions where cancer patients receive treatment could not give people the warmth and support they need in these challenging times.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--Maggie’s Centre is an oasis of calm within a bustling neighborhood. Its roof structure blocks views of Charing Cross Hospital, which towers above it.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Keswick Jencks had what all designers have: a drive to analyze and improve the world around her. During the last few months of her life, she and Charles worked together to conceive of a different kind of place for patients. It would be a place near a hospital, where patients and family members could walk in without an appointment and immediately be welcomed into a caring community of cancer-support specialists, other patients and their families, and survivors. Visitors could receive informal personal counseling, gain information about insurance benefits, participate in individual and group therapy, and learn about such things as nutrition, stress reduction, and other kinds of therapy. Above all, the design of the centers would not resemble a hospital. They would be small-scale and emphasize open space, daylighting, and selective use of color, plants, and landscaping. A year after Keswick Jencks’s death, the first Maggie’s Centre opened in the shadow of Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital. In the ensuing years, six centers have been built, there are four interim centers, and another four are in development. These are almost entirely funded through donations. Several were designed by prominent architects such as Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid. 
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ Maggie’s Centre London is a gift to the emerging genre. The building is tucked into the northwest corner of the grounds of Charing Cross Hospital. Although the neighborhood is far from the middle of London and composed primarily of pleasant brick-and-stucco row houses, the spot is anything but serene. A few feet to the west runs Fulham Palace Road. It carries heavy car, bus, and ambulance traffic, and is described by William Wimshurst, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ project architect for Maggie’s, as “one traffic jam, all day long.” To the east, the hospital’s gray, 1960s-era, 15-story concrete tower looms over the site.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--Each step toward the entrance of the building moves one away from the din. Much attention was paid to creating entry circulation that would be welcoming but maintain patient privacy.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--A fully enclosed exterior courtyard just outside the center’s kitchen provides visitors with a sheltered place to rest or have a conversation.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
The vibrant red-orange of the Maggie’s building the firm created provides worthy opposition for what otherwise could be an extremely oppressive environment. One approaches the center by crossing a courtyard inserted between a few of the site’s mature plane trees. The only hint of what’s inside is a glimpse of an enclosed outdoor courtyard visible through a cutout in the south wall of the building. One passes it, turns 90 degrees, and then another 90 degrees to reach the protected entry. The effect is to become, with each step, more and more isolated from the hustle and bustle of London, a process that Wimshurst describes as “accepting the hug of the building. We’re trying to create a domestic, calm feeling.” Inside the door, it is readily apparent that much attention has been paid to relating to the mind-set of a person coming to Maggie’s for the first time, who may be fighting emotional conflicts that can prevent them from seeking the help that they need. “One of the things we noticed when we were looking at the first Maggie’s in Edinburgh was that it sometimes took people three tries before they came into the building. By actually coming into the building, you’ve had to overcome fear and the recognition that you actually have cancer,” he says.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--The entrance to a courtyard is located next to the kitchen table. A cutout in the building’s exterior wall provides the only glimpse into Maggie’s Centre from the plaza.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--The center is built around its kitchen table. This relaxing, well-lighted gathering point is perfect for the cups of tea and informal conversations that help make visitors feel welcome.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--The steel diagrid roof structure is supported by interior columns, allowing it to cantilever over the low-iron glass exterior walls.
Bernie Byrne, the head of the center, adds, “Maggie’s is very homey, and works very much at a more human level than most institutional architecture. The fact that we don’t have a reception area allows people to be equal. Ideally, the first time you come here, someone from staff would see you come in and would be there to meet you.” To help eliminate that clinical appearance, there is no signage anywhere, not even on bathroom doors. “When you go to someone’s house,” she adds, “you don’t look for a sign. You ask your friend where it is.”
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Even on a gloomy January day, the building is warm and full of daylight. The first and second levels are entirely open to each other, and most of the exterior walls at the second level are glass; the steel diagrid roof structure sits on columns and simply cantilevers out over them. Staff and fund-raisers’ work spaces occupy balconies and are connected from one side of the building to the other by bridges, so no walls block the daylight. Each corner of the second story of the building has an exterior deck. 
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--Work spaces on the second floor are located on balconies and reached via bridges in order to allow daylight to flood the first floor of the building.
The red-orange coating slathered on the exterior stucco walls is not used indoors, although it is visible through some windows. Instead, warm tones from the birch paneling, Siberian larch trim, and polished concrete predominate. Wimshurst notes that chemotherapy often drains the color from people’s skin, and so they have avoided greens, blues, and beiges. The concrete floors also aid the effectiveness of the radiant heating system. “When people go through chemotherapy, it is sometimes quite difficult for them to regulate their body temperature, and often they feel quite cold,” says Wimshurst. “The concrete’s mass helps maintain that constant warm temperature.”
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández--The center’s head, Bernie Byrne, describes interior spaces, such as this sitting room, as “fluid.” Visitors and groups can rearrange furniture as they wish.
A kitchen occupies the central space on the first floor. It is furnished with a counter, racks of tea bags and mugs, and a large kitchen table visible from almost any point in the building. In the winter, a woodstove radiates heat. “We know that there are three elements that crop up time and time again when people get a cancer diagnosis,” says Byrne, “and those are social isolation, helplessness, and hopelessness. What the kitchen table does is provide a forum for people to meet. They can choose to be either an active or a passive participant in anything that’s going on. So you can sit there with your cup of tea and read the paper, and also listen to what’s going on, or you can actually be part of the conversation.” 
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
As one steps away from the kitchen table and toward the perimeter of the building, Maggie’s breaks down into secondary spaces: a large courtyard adjacent to the kitchen, two winter gardens, three large sitting rooms, and several more intimately scaled rooms designated simply as personal spaces. There is even a tiny corner room, called the “snug,” whose two glass walls face the courtyard.
Photo © Courtesy of José Miguel Hernández Hernández
In 2009, Maggie’s Centre London won the Stirling Prize, which surprised some who associate Rogers Stirk Harbour only with large projects with exposed cables and polished stainless-steel components. In contrast, Wimshurst says of Maggie’s, “These details are very simple, to actually reflect the type of building we were trying to do. It’s one of the smallest buildings we have done in a long time. So often practices lose that touch, and it’s nice to show we can still do it.”
first floor plan--drawing Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
upper floor plan--drawing Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

section A-A--drawing Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

The People

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Thames Wharf,
Rainville Road
W6 9HA
t)+44 20 7385 1235
f)+44 20 7385 8409

Ivan Harbour Project Director (RIBA/ARB)
William Wimshurst Project Architect

Ed Burgess (Architect), James Curtis(Architect),, Mike Fairbrass, Tom Lacy(Architect),, Carmel Lewin, (Architect),  Annette Main, Tim Mason, Annie Miller, Liz Oliver, Richard Rogers(Architect),, Laura Salisbury, Paul Thompson(Architect),, Martin White, Neil Wormsley, John Dawson (Architect)


Dan Pearson Studio
Speirs and Major Associates

General contractor:

José Miguel Hernández Hernández
flickr photos album-here

CAD system, project management, or other software used:

The Products

Exterior cladding Concrete:
In situ Concrete – Whelan & Grant
Polished Concrete Screed – Steyson Granolithic

Aluminum Roof Soffit -  SAS international
Sana Membrane roofing – SAS international

Interior finishes
Westbond Carpets

Gas Fires – Real Flame
Wood burning Stove – Westfire 16 - Stovesonline
Kitchen Tables – Benchmark
Blinds - CBS
Furniture – Coexistence/David Colwell Design/SCP/Inform Furniture /Wilkhahn
Sanitary ware - Ideal Standard
Furniture     Alvar Aalto
Rugs      Paolo Lenti
Crockery  Sophie Conran

Louis Poulson/Aktiva/Encapsulite

Joinery – Siberian Larch/European Oak
Thresholds/Birch Face plywood paneling - Midland Interiors
Schuco Curtain Walling –Structura
Structural Steelwork - Knight & Butler
Architectural Steelwork – AK Goymer
Render – Sto - Retrofit
Wall capping – Lockmetal
Weather screen Paneling - Trespa – Midland Joinery
M&E – Gee-Bec
Under floor Heating - OSMA
Groundwork’s and substructure – Leadside Groundworks
Hard landscaping– Charcon Paving – Leadside Groundworks
Soft Landscaping – Acer
Glass Entrance Gate – Meronden Designs
Hospital Signage – Rivermeade Signs
Ironmongery - Allgood D-Line
Folding Partition – Hufcor – style doors
Piling – Colets Piling

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