Nicknamed the ‘Jolly Green Giant’ by the Guardian when it opened in November 2011, Maggie’s Nottingham has also been compared to a green lantern and a treehouse. It was designed by architect Piers Gough CBE (the G of CZWG Architects), and the interior was done by Sir Paul Smith. It’s the first time Maggie’s has used a separate interior designer, so I thought it would be an interesting one to share with you as the next instalment of my Maggie’s series.
Paul Smith said, “What I’ve tried to do is get this real personality into it. I think one thing that absolutely works is that there is something talk about, because there are pictures on the walls, furniture covered in interesting fabric… the the loos have bright tiles. The idea is that you walk in and say, “Oh, isn’t that a lovely fabric?” or “Isn’t that hideous?” – whatever it provokes, at least it kicks off a conversation.”
It can be hard to start a conversation with a stranger when you’re feeling vulnerable and yet the opportunity to talk to someone in the same situation is one of the things people with cancer and their families and friends find most valuable about Maggie’s. So this bold approach to the interior space is driven by real insight into the needs of its users.
He went on to say, “The point is to make people really want to go there, so it’s somewhere that is out of the hospital environment, where you can just relax.” And here he seems to have succeeded too. Anna Read who regularly visits Maggie’s Nottingham said, “The colours in the Maggie’s Centre are calming light and positive. The blues create a relaxed atmosphere for quiet contemplation. The greens evoke an energy that is positive and enriching.
But it’s not just the interior that works hard to create the right environment. She goes on to say, “The fact the centre is raised off the ground creates the impression of a tree house. When you look out of the window, you are surrounded by branches. The greenness of the leaves provides a ‘security blanket’ around the centre.”
Architect Piers Gough explains how this came about, “We ended up picking a site that no hospital building would ever normally be built on – it was sloping like crazy, full of trees, so we could just about fit our modest, small building on this site. You really are in the canopies of the trees. If you aren’t feeling great, you want a certain degree of privacy. And that’s what lifting it off the ground does. The skill of the architect is to make it feel open, but on the other hand have this privacy. The windows are punched into the facade and they’re all offset, which gives a certain liveliness.”
“Liveliness” is a good word to describe Maggie’s Nottingham, and I think it’s the most fun of all the centres. “Fun” is not usually a word you associate with cancer care, but for an organisation whose founder Maggie Keswick Jencks is quoted as saying, “Above all what matters is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.” I think it’s absolutely perfect.
But I’ll leave the last word to Anna Read, because ultimately it’s what the people who use the centre think that matters. She said, “It means a great deal to me to be able to spend time at Maggie’s. It’s a really valuable space.”
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Declaration of Interest: I am very privileged to on a freelance basis 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.