Designed as a ‘vessel within a vessel within a vessel’, the new building aims to reference and respect St Barts’ historic roots, which was founded in 1123. The structure is made from a branch-like concrete frame, while the exterior is clad in matt-white glass with coloured detailing that recalls ‘neume notation’ of medieval music of the 13th century, according to the architects.
The new three-storey Maggie’s Centre replaces a 1960s extension to the North Wing of the hospital, with the concept of an ‘urban townhouse’ taking its place. The centre sits opposite the 17th-century stone building by James Gibbs, famed for its William Hogarth-designed staircase in the ‘Great Hall’.
Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee said: ‘The centre helps us to extend maggie’s vital practical and emotional support to more people across the capital. Steven Holl’s design is a perfect blend of old and new and sits beautifully next to the historical hospital site. With its coloured glass and peaceful roof garden, designed by Darren Hawkes, I am sure the centre will provide a safe haven for people living with cancer and their family and friends across the East of London.’
Inside, the centre is light and bright, with a staircase crafted from perforated bamboo spiralling upwards, connecting the open-plan spaces on each of the three floors. The sensual interior lighting, coloured lenses and translucent white glass of the building’s facade presents ‘a new, joyful, glowing presence on this corner of the great square of St Barts Hospital’, according to Steven Holl Architects.
At the top of the building sits a tranquil roof garden with flowering trees, providing a calm space for people to meet or relax. This opens onto a spacious room that can be used for Tai Chi, yoga, social gatherings and other activities.
There are currently 20 Maggie’s centres in the UK, with 28,000 people diagnosed with cancer in London every year. The new addition will help provide the free practical, emotional and vital social support that’s needed by those living with cancer.