Maggie's Centre London
Maggie’s Centres offer support for people affected by cancer at any stage, whether patients, family members or friends. Their work is in complete support of conventional medical treatment. Maggie’s Centre London, at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, is sited as a prominent ‘bookend’ to the hospital’s principal street frontage. It is conceived as a non-institutional building, an ‘open house’ of 370 m2, arranged over one-and –a-half floors. It is a structure which is both flexible and adaptable. The entrance is approached from within the hospital grounds - a path leads to the centre between existing mature plane trees underplanted with hardy, decorative groundcover, culminating in a public courtyard surrounded by white flowered Magnolia Loebneri Merrill in spring. The entrance corridor is planted with rustling evergreen bamboos and a series of bespoke sculptures commissioned from ceramic artist, Hannah Bennett, provide punctuation and objects for contemplation. The building is made up of five components: a wall that wraps around four sides, providing protection from its exposed location; a kitchen, forming the heart of the internal space and allowing visitors to meet over a cup of tea or coffee and engage with one another in an informal setting; annexes off the main space, conceived as sitting rooms for people to talk, discuss, sit and relax; small courtyards and gardens formed between the annexes and the wall to create useable, protected, external rooms and a ‘floating’ roof that oversails the outer wall, signalling the building from the street. Landscaping is a fundamental component of any Maggie’s Centre. Here, its purpose is to integrate the standalone building into the hospital site, while also creating a distinct and therapeutic environment around and within the building, so adding to its healing potential. The spaces are lushly planted and are designed to complement the process of restoration the centre aims to encourage among users. The three key external garden areas – the northern, eastern and southern winter gardens – are effectively treated as extensions of the internal areas, even though they are open to the elements. Seen only from within the building, these inner courtyards are planted with exotic architectural plants to provide year round interest. A horticultural occupational therapist works with users of the centre on the maintenance of the gardens as part of their therapeutic activity. High quality acoustics are key to creating an attractive environment for staff and visitors alike. High external walls protect the inner space from the relentless daytime noise and visual distractions of Fulham Palace Road both on the ground and mezzanine levels. The design allows people using the Centre to be aware of life going on around them while still maintaining their personal privacy. A massed woodland of pink-stemmed birch (Betula Albosinesis Septentrionalis) wraps around the whole building creating a graphic streetscape against the rust red walls and adding to the shielding effect from the main road. In time the birches will also provide a green backdrop for the open mezzanine level of office spaces and roof terraces. These have wooden decking, benches and planters planted with aromatic Mediterranean herbs to be used in the kitchen. This level creates space where staff can work but still continue to be in contact with visitors below. The building is naturally ventilated (using cross ventilation) and each room opens onto an internal garden space. All timber used in the design is from sustainable sources and rainwater – collected from the roof – is stored and reused for the irrigation of the landscaped areas. The glass façades are shaded from solar gain and the building’s high level of insulation greatly reduces heat loss from within.

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