I have been a big fan of Maggie’s ever since they came onto my radar when Maggie’s London won the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2009. Max Fraser got me even more hooked with his Joy of Living campaign last year, and I am now very privileged to write for them on a part time basis. I don’t usually write about brands I work with, but I’ve decided to make an exception for Maggie’s – I hope you understand why. This will be a monthly column, featuring a different centre each month. First, Maggie’s Gartnavel in Glasgow, which was recently shortlisted for the 2012 Stirling Prize.
Set in the grounds of specialist cancer hospitals, Maggie’s provides “emotional, practical and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends.” The centres are intentionally home-sized, rather than hospital-sized, and the kitchen table, where people can meet others going through similar experiences, is at the heart of every centre.
Rem Koolhaas of OMA has really broken the mould with his design by not taking that sentiment literally and putting the kitchen table in the middle of the building, something which all other Maggie’s architects have done. Inside, he put an equally important feature at the heart of the building – the garden, designed by landscape architect and daughter Maggie’s co-founders, Lily Jencks.
All of Maggie’s centres have a connection to nature through views and gardens, but nowhere is it given such prominence as at Gartnavel. People who have visited the centre talk about how seeing the changing seasons can help to reassure them that whatever they are currently going through will pass.
As a close friend of Maggie’s co-founders the late Maggie Keswick Jencks and her husband Charles Jencks, Rem Koolhaas was keen to get this design absolutely right, and in fact took some time before he felt ready to take it on. He is known for his belief that corridors should circle in and out of buildings with views in and out, connecting the building. In this case, Charles joked that the corridor had swallowed the whole building. He describes it as “a corridor that wraps”.
In fact the building could be seen as one big corridor, but I think it is much more clever than that. People often find it easier to talk while they walk, to avoid direct eye contact. You can walk for ever in this building. It also creates a series of spaces with quite different feels; from the noisy kitchen table often surrounded with peals of laughter to quieter more private spaces for consultations or time alone.
RIBA have kindly allowed me to share this video, in which OMA’s Ellen van Loon describes the project and we also hear from Gillian Hailstones, the Centre Head, about how the building helps her to support people with cancer.
I am delighted that another Maggie’s centre has made the Stirling Prize shortlist – it’s such a wonderful endorsement of Maggie’s use of design and architecture for to make people’s lives better – at a time when they need it most. Gartnavel is up against some pretty stiff competition, but I would love to see it win.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
- creative spaces :: maggie’s cancer caring centres
- out and about :: celebrating maggie’s and oma / progress
Images courtesy of OMA; photography by Philippe Ruault.
Declaration of Interest: I am very privileged to work part time as a writer for Maggie’s, an incredible charity who provide emotional, practical and social support for people with cancer and their families and friends from stunning buildings set within the grounds of specialist cancer hospitals. These are my opinions; not those of Maggie’s.