Since Maggie Keswick Jencks co-founded the first Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh in 1996, the unique cancer treatment organization has hired world-renowned architects—including Frank Gehry, Steven Holl, and Zaha Hadid—to design several outposts throughout the United Kingdom as well as the world abroad. The latest Maggie’s Centre was recently completed in Sutton, England, and was designed by London-based architecture firm Ab Rogers Design.
Named Maggie’s at the Royal Marsden, the newest outpost was designed to complement the medical services of the adjacent Royal Marsden Hospital with a calm, home-like atmosphere free of hospital aesthetics. The facade is clad in bright-red terracotta tiles that transitions from deep carmine to bleached coral at the entrance to prepare visitors for the color-filled spaces within. In place of right angles are rounded walls and curved detailing, rendered in Birth ply and Douglas fir, that soften the transition between rooms and simulate the atmosphere of a home. A double-height kitchen defines the building’s center with a long table that encourages interaction among its patients. A small “garden house” building stands opposite from the main facility to host more intimate gatherings.
The croissant-shaped building plan is composed of five escalating volumes overlooking four separate gardens designed by Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf. According to Maggie’s Centre, the garden contains over 12,000 plants chosen specifically to “change dramatically with the seasons and grow to waist-height, enabling views to other parts of the garden. In spring, the bulbs will bloom first followed by early flowering species. In summer, the garden will become a mass of ornamental grasses and flowers which leave behind dramatic seed heads for autumn and winter.”
Maggie’s at the Royal Marsden has been designed in accordance with Maggie’s Architecture and Landscape Brief, an official guideline that all architects providing designs for the organization must follow to receive approval. The brief demands a “domestic” and “friendly” ethos for all its buildings, adding that “if they raise your spirits even for a moment, they will have done a good job.” As Ab Rogers’ first standalone project, the building also carries out the firm’s mission of inspiring its occupants “in active environments that are as entertaining and poetic as they are pragmatic and functional.”