built on the grounds of existing NHS hospitals, maggie’s centres provide emotional and social support for people affected by cancer. the ongoing initiative tasks acclaimed architecture firms with creating welcoming, comforting, and uplifting healthcare environments. following in the footsteps of norman foster, OMA, and frank gehry — among others — is london-based firm dRMM. described by the architects as ‘less about form and more about content’, the design is much more than the simple wooden box presented to the passing street.

dRMM maggies oldham
the scheme is the world’s first building made from hardwood cross-laminated timber
image © tony barwell / video © AHEC

 

 

believed to be the world’s first building made from hardwood cross-laminated timber (CLT), the dRMM-designed maggie’s centre was developed alongside the american hardwood export council. ‘in wood there is hope, humanity, scale, warmth, and nature’s clever plan to absorb carbon,’ says alex de rijke, founding partner of dRMM. ‘wood is a non-toxic, versatile, benign, anti-carcinogenic material. people like wood, but steel and concrete are the industry default.’

dRMM maggies oldham
externally the building is draped in corrugated, heat-treated wood
image © alex de rijke

 

 

constructed from american tulipwood, the building is supported on slender columns and hovers above a lower level garden. this secluded setting offers ‘open air rooms’ framed by trees and other vegetation. a centrally positioned asymmetrical hole allows a single birch tree to pierce the structure, guaranteeing scenic views from upstairs. although the interior plan remains as open as possible, a full-height reversible curtain loop designed by dutch artist petra blaisse creates an adaptable enclosure that offers a variety of privacy levels.

dRMM maggies oldham
the building is supported on slender columns and hovers above a lower level garden
image © jasmin sohi

 

 

in developing the project, dRMM paid close attention to the needs of patients: from the psychological effect of spaces and views, to the effect of light levels and color on skin made sensitive from radiotherapy. ‘as those undergoing chemotherapy sometimes feel pain on touching cold objects, oak rather than metal door handles have been used,’ explain the architects. ‘wood fiber insulation ensures a breathable, healthy environment whilst the huge window frames are american white oak.’

dRMM maggies oldham
a centrally positioned opening allows a single birch tree to pierce the structure
image © alex de rijke

dRMM maggies oldham
the tree remains visible from inside the facility
image © jasmin sohi

dRMM maggies oldham
the interior plan remains as open as possible
image © jasmin sohi

dRMM maggies oldham
the use of wood continues internally
image © alex de rijke

dRMM maggies oldham
dutch artist petra blaisse has installed a full-height reversible curtain loop
image © jasmin sohi

dRMM maggies oldham
the curtains create an adaptable and flexible enclosure
image © alex de rijke

dRMM maggies oldham
a terrace offers views as well as fresh air
image © alex de rijke

dRMM maggies oldham
maggie’s centres are built on the grounds of existing NHS hospitals
image © alex de rijke

dRMM maggies oldham
the lower level garden becomes softly illuminated at night
image © alex de rijke

 

 

 

project info:

 

name: maggie’s oldham
location: oldham, UK
client: maggie’s
funding: stoller charitable trust
architect: dRMM
timber advice: AHEC
landscape design: dRMM & rupert muldoon
structural engineer: booth king
cost consultant: robert lombardelli partnership
main contractor: f parkinson
building services engineer: atelier ten
structural timber subcontractor: zublin timber
tulipwood supplier: middle tenessee lumber
machining of cladding: morgan timber
internal joinery: uncommon projects
artist (curtain): inside/outside
landscape subcontractor: hultons
curved glazing: IPIG
timber framed windows: aresi
furniture: coexistence
wooden door handles: mowat & co / allgood

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