heatherwick studio has completed a new centre for maggie’s, the charity that provides free practical and emotional support for people with cancer. the 462 square meter (4,973 sqf) building, located within the campus of st. james’s university hospital in leeds, is the charity’s 26th centre in the UK and the first completed healthcare project by thomas heatherwick’s office. maggie’s leeds is designed as a group of three large-scale planters, built on a sloped site, that each enclose a counseling room. these surround the ‘heart’ of the centre — the kitchen — as well as more social spaces for group activities including a library and exercise room.
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in developing the project, heatherwick studio sought to use ‘healthy’ materials and energy-saving techniques. the structure of maggie’s leeds is built from a prefabricated and sustainably-sourced spruce timber system. meanwhile, porous materials such as lime plaster help maintain the internal humidity of the naturally-ventilated building, which has been achieved through careful consideration of the building’s form and orientation.
the rooftop garden, designed by balston agius, recalls the yorkshire woodlands and features native english species of plants, alongside areas of evergreen to provide warmth in the winter months. visitors are encouraged to participate in the care of the 23,000 bulbs and 17,000 plants on site — an act inspired by the charity’s founder maggie keswick jencks. the interior features natural and tactile materials, soft lighting, and a variety of spaces designed to encourage social opportunities as well as quiet contemplation. window sills and shelves are intended for visitors to fill with their own objects to create a sense of home. as part of the project, heatherwick studio has designed two tables built from cork and engineered beech timber.
‘our aim was to build a home for people affected by cancer that would be soulful and welcoming, unlike other typical clinical environments,’ explains thomas heatherwick. ‘by only using natural, sustainable materials and immersing the building in thousands of plants, there was a chance for us to make an extraordinary environment capable of inspiring visitors with hope and perseverance during their difficult health journeys. maggie’s leeds has been a very special project for me and my team because we are convinced that there are kinder, more empathic ways to design places that can have powerful impacts on the way that we feel. this is particularly important in the design of healthcare environments, but is so frequently overlooked.’
‘maggie’s leeds has been a privilege for our team to work on given the importance of the charity’s work,’ adds mat cash, group leader at heatherwick studio. ‘as one of the last remaining green sites within the hospital’s campus, we wanted to provide an open, welcoming centre of nearly 5,000 sq ft which felt encompassed by lots of nature, something we felt was extremely important in a healthcare environment because of its restorative effects. by utilizing the sloping contours of the site, the centre also offers visitors a visual connection beyond the immediate hospital campus with inspiring views of the yorkshire dales and beyond.’
‘it is fantastic to be bringing maggie’s to leeds at a time when people with cancer need our support more than ever,’ says laura lee, chief executive of maggie’s. ‘the centre has been designed beautifully on a challenging plot of land. we were so pleased that heatherwick studio were able to incorporate plenty of green space into their design, as we know that a connection to nature, as well as great architecture and design can have a huge impact on people’s health, both mentally and physically. we hope that people visiting the centre enjoy the planting and gardens by balston aguis and feel comforted by the design and layout of the centre.’
the centre is currently open for people with cancer and their families and friends to visit, although social distancing and cleaning measures are being taken. maggie’s is currently encouraging visitors to call ahead and make an appointment to see the team. visitors who are being seen in the hospital are also welcome.
the project expands on heatherwick studio’s interest in the role of biophilia within the built environment. this demonstrated in the completed EDEN, a new residential building in singapore; little island at pier55, a park and performance space in new york city that is due to complete in 2021; and 1000 trees, a mixed-use development in shanghai, which on completion will include 25,000 individual plants and 100 different species of plants and trees. see all project by heatherwick studio on designboom here.
heatherwick studio project team credits:
founder: thomas heatherwick
group leader: mat cash
project leaders: neil hubbard, rebeca ramos, angel tenorio
project team: peter ayres, alyaa azhar, mark bagguely, einar blixhavn, charlotte bovis, erich breuer, mark burrows, darragh casey, francesco cavaliere, michael chomette, ben dudek, antoine van erp, alex flood, matthew gilbert, andrew green, hayley henry, james hepper, etain ho, kong hoang, catherine jones, peter king, nilufer kocabas, gergely kovacs, hyein lee, nick ling, freddie lomas, john minford, sayaka namba, charmaine ng, juan oyarbide, monika patel, hannah parker, tayra pinto, luke plumbley, gabriel piovanetti, ivan ucros polley, enrique pujana, manuel ramos, silvia rueda, deyan saev, luis samanez, gabriel sanchiz, ahira sanjeet, wendy smith, skye sun, cliff tan, ruth vatcher, brandon whitwell-mak, meera yadave, aysha zahid, artur zakrzewski, pablo zamorano, chen zhan
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