Garbers & James completes Dr Kisho Kurokawa's Swansea Maggie's Centre
The first Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre in Wales has been opened in Swansea on a landscaped plot adjacent to the Singleton Hospital. Dr Kisho Kurokawa, a Japanese architect and close friend of Maggie’s Keswick Jencks, began the conceptualisation of the volume, basing his design ‘on the concept of a cosmic whirlpool, representing a strong symbol of life’ before his death in 2007. Architects Thore Garbers and Wendy James of Garbers & James met with Dr Kurokawa during these early stages of design and followed the project through to completion as executive architects.
The collective’s swirling design envelopes a warm, welcoming environment for those affected by cancer, deliberately contrasted to the clinical hospital atmosphere that can be impersonal and alienating. This is the first centre of its kind in Wales, although Maggie’s has been operating an interim centre on the Singleton Hospital site during construction, and will be run in connection with the South West Wales Cancer Network which covers approximately 900,000 people.
During the design process, Dr Kurokawa described his concept thus: “The new Maggie’s Centre will come out of the earth and swing around with two arms like a rotating galaxy. One side will welcome the visitor and lead to the other side, which embraces nature, the trees, rocks and water. A place set apart, as Maggie said of a garden. The connection to the cosmos and contacts between East and West - two motives that Maggie and I shared - are in the design. I hope she would have liked it.”
Landscape architect Kim Wilkie formed the supporting landscape - a primary feature in any Maggie’s Centre - which can be observed from a series of terraces and panoramic window panes. The volume is also located on the edge of an area of quiet woodland. A central space is the social heart of the building, with two protruding arms providing quieter, more intimate areas for contemplation and reflection. Funding for the project was sourced from the Joy of Living fundraising campaign headed by Maggie’s patron Sarah Brown, and a grant from the Welsh Assembly of £1.5m.
Maggie’s Chief Executive Laura Lee said: “People across the region have put a tremendous effort into fundraising to make this centre a reality and today the local community should be proud of the lasting legacy they have created for the thousands affected by the devastating consequences of cancer. The late architect Dr Kisho Kurokawa and landscape architect Kim Wilkie have conceived a truly unique environment, which will help to facilitate this support, by making people feel safe, inspired and valued. Under one extraordinary roof, Maggie’s will help people to find their way out of the hopelessness of cancer.”