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Cullinan to extend its Newcastle Maggie’s Centre

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Cullinan Studio has been given the go-ahead to extend the Maggie’s Newcastle cancer care centre it completed six years ago

The city council gave Ted Cullinan’s London-based practice planning permission for a single-storey addition to the facility, sited in the grounds of Freeman Hospital.

More than 100,000 people have visited Maggie’s Newcastle since the £3 million Cullinan-designed centre was opened in 2013.

Now the practice has been given the green light to grow it by about a third to meet demand. Its project will add support spaces, counselling rooms, a courtyard and more roof garden space.

Cullinan said the existing centre was designed to appear as if it were emerging from the earth. The L-shaped building, angled towards the sun, features a sheltered courtyard garden protected on all sides by earth banks planted with flowering perennials and herbs.

A planning report said the extension had been designed to act as a continuation of the existing building.

Maggie’s Newcastle head Karen Verrill said: ‘Every day around 100 people will visit Maggie’s for help, advice and support. This includes young people coming to terms with a shock diagnosis, parents learning to live with incurable cancer, and families recently bereaved.

‘On particularly busy days, we’ve had over 250 people a day. You don’t need an appointment or a referral and can simply call in whenever you need support. Visitors will often arrive in distress and need a private space to speak confidentially with our team of experts. Our planned extension will give us additional counselling rooms and private corners for these conversations, plus a larger space to meet the growing demand for our support groups and workshops.’

Newcastle was the 16th fully operational Maggie’s Centre. The first was built in Edinburgh in 1996 to plans drawn up by Maggie Keswick Jencks before she died from cancer a year earlier.

Prominent architects have designed centres for the charity, including Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, Rem Koolhaas and Steven Holl.

Description of original Maggie’s Newcastle project, from the AJ in 2013

A vibrant landscape surround the sheltered centre, which itself has a partly enclosed courtyard. There are two wings of the Centre, one for counselling rooms and a large living room space, the other leads to the all-important kettle and kitchen table. A central library incorporates stairs up to a mezzanine level, covered by an angled roof covered in photovoltaic panels.

The mezzanine leads out onto the flat landscaped roof, screened by planting. A courtyard occupies the fourth quadrant, which visitors can see and walk out into from the kitchen and large meeting room.

The vibrantly planted embanked earth around the courtyard and building provides shelter and privacy, and a small pavilion creates an outdoor place for conversation or being alone in.

Allowing the building, roof and landscape to be fully accessible provides the users with a sense of ownership and allows for exploration and discovery on a relatively small site. Maggie’s Centres are somewhat domestic in character, having many of the features of a biggish house, and it has been found that they attract more women than men. So, as well as the housey things, Ted’s centre has further things that both sexes might enjoy like gardening, barbecuing, hedge clipping, and outdoor games and gym equipment.

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