Cullinan Studio's wood-rich Maggie's Centre opens in North of England
Opened in May this year, Maggie’s Newcastle is the 15th Maggie’s Centre in the UK and the 16th in total, after Frank Gehry completed a Centre in Hong Kong in March. Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres have become a celebrated series of uplifting architecture through the commissioning of some of the world’s top architects. Practices such as Wilkinson Eyre, Zaha Hadid Architects, OMA and CZWG have all leant their unique aesthetics to the worthy cause.
The overarching concept behind the centres is to provide those living with cancer with a place of sanctuary away from the sterile hospital environment, ensuring that, as founder Maggie Keswick Jencks put it, people never ‘lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’. Natural materials often feature heavily in the building designs along with verdant gardens and cosy corners for quiet contemplation, both inside and out. At the core of each centre is a big kitchen table where users can gather to discuss their day. This also adds to the ‘domestic’ feel aimed for by each architect in the programme.
Maggie’s Newcastle was designed by Cullinan Studio and headed by Ted Cullinan who took a holistic approach to the building construction. The design incorporates sustainable principles throughout and is topped with an angled roof and photovoltaic panels. Ted Cullinan details: “The new Centre injects a seasonally responsive, fluxing, landscaped realm into the Freeman Hospital grounds. Responding to the forces of sun and time, the Centre sites still within its landscaped banks and under a planted roof allowing copper beeches, cherry blossom, crocuses, wild flowers and herbs to delight with the seasons.
“The Centre’s roof hosts planting and games at its lower level and absorbs and transforms the sun’s energy at the higher level. With courtyard doors thrown open in summer and chairs clustered around a central fireplace in winter the Centre offers spaces of repose and retreat, prospect and refuge.” The landscaping was overseen by Sarah Price who also designed the athlete’s village at the 2012 London Olympic Park and is designed to encircle the main bulk of the Centre as if ‘there are arms around you in the garden’.
Internally the building is largely finished with natural materials to give a tactile, homely feel. Interior designer David Wallace of Abercrombie Interior Designs worked with Ted Cullinan to realise an environment that would encourage more men to visit the Maggie’s Centre. He details: “I knew Maggie’s wanted to encourage more men to visit their Centres so I have looked at fabrics which might appeal to men, as well as fabrics which are tactile and which are made from sustainable materials such as wool. There is a beech hedge outside which will change from brown to spring green and the interior colours will match these changing seasons. The colours are also very strong and robust, in many ways it is not for the faint hearted.”