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Q&A with Small Projects-winning client Maggie's

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Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee talks to the AJ about the Small Projects Award-winning temporary cancer care centre at Clatterbridge

What does winning the AJ Small Projects Award mean for you as a client?
We’re absolutely delighted to have won the award especially as great design and architecture is so vital to the care Maggie’s offers. The centre was designed to create a calm and uplifting environment as well as providing a programme of support to strengthen the physical and emotional wellbeing of people with cancer.

It is the first temporary Maggie’s Centre. Are we likely to see more of them in the future?
Maggie’s Merseyside at Clatterbridge isn’t our first interim centre but it is our first to be designed by an architectural practice. Our previous interim centres have provided support for people with cancer in Swansea, Cambridge, Lanarkshire and Oxford though these have now been replaced with purpose built fully complete centres.

Why was a temporary centre chosen for this location in particular?
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre plans to expand its services into central Liverpool at the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital. Our interim centre was specifically designed to progress alongside the hospital’s future development plans to bring further support to people with cancer and their family and friends across Merseyside and Cheshire. Our intention is to build a permanent centre at the Royal Liverpool University’s new site in the future but, until then, the interim centre is there to meet the needs of people with cancer.

What made you choose Carmody Groarke for the centre?
With the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre’s proposals to expand their services into central Liverpool, we needed a creative interim solution to progress alongside this. We therefore felt Carmody Groarke as architects renowned for their experience of creating imaginative buildings, some of which are temporary, would bring an innovative and creative approach to the design of an interim Maggie’s Centre.

Creating a warm space within a temporary environment is a tough brief

The practice is well-known for its work on temporary buildings, was this a reason for working with them on this project?Yes it was. The expertise and experience of our architects is fundamental to our centres and the challenge of creating a warm and welcoming therapeutic space within a temporary environment is a tough brief. We wanted someone with a breadth of excellent experience to be able to meet the challenge – which is why we chose Carmody Groarke.

How did you brief the architects for the project?
Each of the architectural practices we work with is given the same brief, based on the needs of a person with cancer. It is a challenging brief and requires a great deal of skill to deliver a design that produces the calm and uplifting environments of our centres. Each of our centres looks different but all have these principles in mind and the same fundamental components. Maggie’s Merseyside at Clatterbridge was the first of our interim centres to be developed with the architectural brief and, as with all of our centres, we met with Carmody Groarke several times to talk through the brief and share ideas.

How important was cost in the project? Did it drive the design?
As a charity we rely on voluntary donations to build each of our centres as well as interim centres and to also develop our unique, high quality programme of support. Cost was therefore very important to the project and working closely with Carmody Groarke we kept it to a level appropriate for an interim centre.

Where did the idea to use the London Dresser – which was shortlisted for a small project award 2 years ago – in the scheme come from?
The idea actually came from a July 2013 issue of the AJ which advertised the London Dresser as for sale. The structure’s versatility and 11 metre long glass panelled side felt particularly well-suited for use as an interim centre, allowing us to showcase a panoramic view over the farming fields of the Wirral landscape. This has helped to create the calm and uplifting environment within the centre, so important to visitors and staff alike.

How does the building feel now it is in use? Are you happy with it?
Since opening in June last year, the centre has been extremely well received and visited regularly by people with cancer and their family and friends in the area. We’re very happy with the building and it is currently seeing approximately 50 visitors each day seeking support from the centre. Tai chi, yoga and art therapy as well as creative writing and singing have also recently been launched at the centre taking place in the London Dresser.

What will happen to the building when it is no longer needed as a Maggie’s Centre?
When a permanent centre is in place at the central Royal Liverpool University Hospital site we’ll look into transporting the building to other locations across the UK. This will enable us to continue to provide our programme of support to people with cancer in other locations whilst developing plans for purpose built and uniquely designed centres in those locations.


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