Heatherwick Studio's centre for Maggie's, the charity that provides free practical and emotional support for people with cancer, has just been completed in Leeds. The 462 sq metre centre, located within the campus of St. James's University Hospital, is the charity's 26th centre in the UK and the first completed healthcare project designed by the studio.
Maggie's Leeds is designed as a group of three large-scale planters, built on a sloped site, that each enclose a counselling room. These surround the 'heart' of the centre - the kitchen and more social spaces for group activities, including a library and exercise room.
Drawing upon the philosophy of Maggie's and the belief that great design can help people feel better, Maggie's Leeds uses several 'healthy' materials and energy-saving techniques. The building's structure is built from a prefabricated and sustainably-sourced spruce timber system. Porous materials such as lime plaster help maintain the naturally-ventilated building's internal humidity, which has been achieved through careful consideration of the building's form and orientation.
The rooftop garden, designed by award-winning landscape designers Balston Agius, is inspired by Yorkshire woodlands and features native English species of plants alongside evergreen areas to provide warmth in the winter months. Inspired by Maggie Keswick Jencks' love of gardening, visitors are encouraged to participate in the care of the 23,000 bulbs and 17,000 plants on site.
The interior of the centre explores everything that is often missed in healing environments: 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. The studio has also designed two tables, inspired by the building's timber fins and built from cork and engineered beech timber, which reside in the heart of the centre.
Thomas Heatherwick, Founder of Heatherwick Studio, said: "It's been a tremendous experience and honour to design Maggie's centre in Leeds. Our aim was to build a home for people affected by cancer that would be soulful and welcoming, unlike other typical clinical environments.
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 my team and me 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."
Laura Lee, Chief Executive of Maggie's, said: "It is fantastic to be bringing Maggie's to Leeds at a time when people with cancer need our support more than ever. 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 and great architecture and design can have a huge impact on people's health mentally and physically. We hope that people visiting the centre enjoy the planting and gardens by Balston Agius and feel comforted by the design and layout of the centre."
Mat Cash, Group Leader at Heatherwick Studio, said: "Maggie's Leeds has been a privilege for our team to work on given the importance of the charity's work. As one of the last remaining green sites within the hospital's campus, we wanted to provide an open, welcoming centre of nearly 5000 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 utilising 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."
The centre is currently open for people with cancer and their families and friends to visit. 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.