A group of us from the Manchester studio visited the Maggie’s Centre at the Christie Hospital last Thursday. Maggie’s Centres are a well-established concept whereby support for people living with cancer and their families is offered in a welcoming, smaller scale environment within a larger cancer hospital setting. Just a short walk down a tree-lined avenue from the necessarily more clinical backdrop of the Christie, the Manchester Maggie’s Centre (by Foster + Partners) is an oasis of calm and relaxation – and not just on a beautiful sunny day like this. A large canopy and glass house to one end of the building mean you can enjoy the outdoors even when the weather is not as glorious. And in the Winter months, the wood-burning fires draw people together around their warmth.
Warmth – a great word to describe what is offered here. Spaces feel calm, domestic and above all, welcoming. There are no barriers, no signs. You just wander in and someone will say hello. If you need to know where something is, someone will tell you – as described by Sinead, our host, ‘it’s like being in your posh auntie’s house – you feel welcome, but you wouldn’t put your shoes on the sofa!’.
The linear main space is loosely divided into hallway, kitchen, dining and lounges, becoming smaller and more cosy as you move along. Off this space are functional rooms for activities, counselling or just greater privacy. But each of these spaces is still strongly linked, with seated eye-level windows and doors to outside offering constant connections. The highlights for me were the detailing and the landscape – strongly linked with a main structure reminiscent of trellis and views out of the lusciously planted surroundings and up to the sky from almost every part of the building.
We would have quite liked to stay there all day.