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Second time lucky? Dow Jones wins planning for interim Cardiff Maggie's

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Dow Jones Architects has won planning for an interim Maggie’s Centre in Cardiff, after the original site it won approval for four years ago became unavailable

The firm first won planning for the Maggie’s Centre to be built at Velindre Cancer Centre in May 2014, but this site was ruled out after the hospital was earmarked for a major redevelopment plan last year. The plan includes a new a £200 million Velindre Cancer Centre to be built on a 14.5ha site in Whitchurch, north Cardiff.

As a result, the practice is designing an interim centre in the north-west corner of the Velindre Cancer Centre car park, which was approved by planners last month and will complete in the summer. According to Alun Jones of Dow Jones Architects, this temporary Maggie’s will be a ’totally different project – smaller, quicker to build and cheaper than the original building’. 

Dow Jones is also drawing up plans for a permanent Maggie’s Centre for the site of the new Velindre Cancer Centre, expected to start construction in 2023. 

Concept sketch

Concept sketch

Source: Dow Jones Architects

Concept sketch

Architect’s view

The interim centre works with a number of the ideas realised by the design of the original building. Tthe form of the building encapsulates an idea about the local landscape, and the organisation of the building is designed to take the user away from their situation and project them into another place.

The form of the building is composed to reflect the surrounding hills, and it will be clad in cor-ten corrugated steel sheet to reflect the colour of the autumn bracken. The building will be a simple domestic timber frame construction.

The building is entered via a small but intense walled garden space, which will create a threshold and form a marked contrast to the bleakness of the car park setting. Once inside, the building will be very simple. It will have a powerfloated concrete floor and plasterboard perimeter walls. The spaces will be subdivided by three large plywood boxes, which contain the storage and loos and divide the space into a series of rooms.

The roof form is a simple repeating pitch but, being set at an angle the geometry of the plan, will create an interesting topography beneath itself. The roof timbers will be exposed to emphasise the geometry of these folded planes. The direction of the roof form has been chosen to be perpendicular to the stand of existing trees, thereby bringing the garden space directly into the building.

The plan is organised by the two garden spaces: the one you pass through to enter the building, and the other that you look into from the main rooms. The large windows frame a view of the stand of trees, which will form the backdrop to the garden. We see the garden spaces as a critical part of the building, and as before, will be working with landscape designer Cleve West on its design.

The accommodation consists of the kitchen with a table for 12 – the heart of any Maggie’s Centre; a big room for large group activities; a small room for counselling; a medium sized room for small groups; an office for five staff; and two loos and storage. We are also retaining the ‘cwtch’ from our original design. This will be an odd-shaped, tall, roof-lit space for two to three people to withdraw to, and will be a place of quiet reflection within the centre.

Our building will also house the artwork created for it by Osi Rhys Osmond – called Self Portrait. This will sit at the end of the long vista through the building that you see on entering the centre, and provides an essential organising axis for the building.

The building is designed to be visually arresting and playful externally, while the interior is a calm and reflective place, filled with natural light and framed views of nature and art.

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