Alex de Rijke, founding director of dRMM Architects who led the team in the design of the centre, wanted to create a practical and emotional oasis for people living with cancer. The building is de Rijke’s physicalized response to a question often asked by cancer sufferers: ‘Why?’ As the evidence increasingly points to carcinogenic elements in our food, drink, air, and material components, de Rijke and the dRMM team attempt to address the relationship between the built environment and the causes of cancer.
Maggie’s Oldham utilizes cross-laminated hardwood, a material invented though dRMM’s work on Endless Stair in 2013. (Read the interview with de Rijke on the installation here.) Also constructed from American tulipwood with AHEC, the building represents a deliberate intervention of the aesthetic and functional norms in hospitals.
In Maggie’s, staff do not wear ID badges, nor is there signage at the entrances; only open doors that welcome inside the Greater Manchester community for psychological support, practical advice, nutrition workshops, relaxation, stress management, art therapy, and yoga. dRMM gave nature a strong presence in the building, creating the atmosphere of an ‘inside-out treehouse’ open to the trees and sky.
‘The plan is spectacularly open, framing views of the garden [designed with Rupert Muldoon] to the south, the horizon to the north, and the sky above,’ says de Rijke. ‘The outcome is a holistic design environment, where the shadowy foliage of the trees in a framed view is as deliberate as the comfortable height, fabric and colour of your chair, or the home-grown tomatoes for the soup on the circular central table.’
More home than hospital, the environment dRMM worked to create is therapeutic in nature. The pioneering building considers its surroundings in its form, and is considerate to its visitors in its function. The uplifting and inspiring space is not unique to Maggie’s Centres; other renowned architects, including the late Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, and Norman Foster, have contributed their vision and expertise to enhancing the well-being of the people who visit and work in the centres.