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Amanda Levete secures planning for Southampton Maggie’s

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Amanda Levete’s practice AL_A has won planning permission for a new Maggie’s cancer care centre in Southampton

The 420m² ‘oasis-like’ facility, which features concertina-like ceramic walls, will sit within a landscaped garden on the Southampton General Hospital campus.

Maggie’s Southampton will be built close to the hospital’s oncology unit on a 1,470m² site and becomes the cancer charity’s 19th specialist care centre.

The award-winning schemes have been designed by a roll call of architecture’s biggest names including, OMA, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. 

Speaking about the Southampton proposal, AL_A founder Levete said: ’Maggie’s Centres are ambitious with a purpose that can be felt and go to the very heart of architecture. [Their] approach is about creating a space that is uplifting and that changes the way people think about themselves and interact with others.

’[This proposal] creates an oasis in the grounds of Southampton General Hospital: a woodland glade seemingly transported from the nearby New Forest.

’Our centre is a disappearing building’

’Our centre is a disappearing building, using minimal structure and movable partitions to frame spaces of varying privacy and enclosure that nonetheless remain connected to the landscape.

’We want there to be the strong sense that the garden has always been here, a natural haven that provides seclusion and protection from the outside world.’

The centre’s surrounding gardens will be designed co-designer of the Olympic Park Sarah Price.

The building is set to open in 2017.

The architect’s view

Maggie’s Southampton will be set within the haven of a garden transported from the New Forest into the midst of the hospital’s concrete landscape. Bringing a bit of magic to the place, the building emerges from this wild naturalistic landscape with an almost ethereal clarity. Subtle, understated and imbued with light, it is designed to lift the weight from the shoulders of all who visit and work there.

A woodland oasis in the grounds of the hospital’s suburban campus, almost three quarters of the 1,470m² site is given over to four distinct gardens that reflect the ecology of the nearby New Forest.

The 420m² Centre is set within a shallow bowl to create a sheltered natural enclosure that breaks the topographical uniformity of the car park and separates the centre from the surrounding sea of cars. Densely planted trees and shrubs define the perimeter of the site, providing privacy and protection from the outside world. This copse of trees thins towards the centre of the site, where four walls, radiating outwards at right angles to one another, define four gardens, each with its own character and species.

The architecture and landscape work in tandem with these four walls forming the framework of the single storey Centre. These fixed walls are made from cast ceramics, rooting the Centre to the earth in which it stands. Arranged in a concertina-like effect, alternate faces are either subtly glazed to reflect the greenery or are left matte to speak of the clay that forms them.

The heart of any Maggie’s Centre is the kitchen, the first space that visitors encounter and an important gathering space for users and staff alike. A reference point in the middle of the building, the kitchen immediately establishes a comforting, domestic atmosphere in contrast to the more institutional spaces of the hospital. It sits below a circular skylight that brings daylight and sky views deeper into the building.

‘Reflective materials are used throughout the interiors’

A series of movable partitions divide the communal space of the kitchen from the open-plan space around it, allowing a flexibility that enables Maggie’s to cater for a wide range of activities and to provide semi-private rooms appropriate to the work of the Centre.

The building is staged so that privacy increases as you move away from the kitchen, with four private rooms where visitors can have a quiet moment or a one-to-one conversation arranged between the ceramic walls of the building. These private spaces become boxes with fixed walls, clad in one way mirrors that reflect the surrounding gardens, causing the walls to seemingly disappear into the naturalistic planting, reflecting back the trees and flowers. The glazing is treated with a special coating to make it visible to birds, overcoming the risk of collisions.

Reflective materials and surfaces are used throughout the interiors of Maggie’s Southampton to draw the changing, seasonal colours of the garden into the interiors and further the sensation of a building that vanishes into the woodland.

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