Decoding Design

Healing potential of architecture

Healing potential of architecture

Posting in Architecture

The newest Maggie Centre in Gartnavel, designed by OMA, presents a benchmark for the design of cancer care facilities.

The newest Maggie Centre in Gartnavel, designed by OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), presents a benchmark for the design of cancer care facilities.

The Maggie Centre on the grounds of Gartnavel hospital in Glasgow is a departure from OMA's usual large scale projects. For the one story building in a bucolic setting, OMA used a material palette of warm beech and buffed concrete that reveals a soft touch not normally seen in the firm's work. The simple but carefully laid out plan shows interlocking rooms that wrap around a central courtyard. The entire effect is calm and reflects the sensitive design prescription of Maggie's Centres.

Maggie's Centres provide support and information for cancer patients and their families and friends. The Centres are welcome redesigns of standard hospital environments. The residential scale buildings focus on the beneficial qualities of light, open spaces, privacy, and views of and access to outdoors. Although the buildings are designed by high profile architects, the focus is on making nurturing spaces, not making huge design statements.

The Maggie's Centres are based on the belief that architecture can make people feel better and that innovative spaces can inspire. The Centres were founded by architect Maggie Keswick Jencks, who had first hand experience of the depressing if not depleting qualities of typical treatment facilities, and her husband, architectural theorist Charles Jencks. Maggie Jencks died from cancer in 1995 and left a legacy of innovative buildings that offer places for patients to feel cared for and at ease. Charles Jenck's book, The Architecture of Hope, presents his case for the impacts of architecture on healing.

Since the first Maggie's Centre opened in 1996, fifteen Centres have been designed and built across the UK by prominent architects including Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, and Frank Gehry.

Images: Phillippe Ruault for OMA

Video: BD Online

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure