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Work starts on dRMM’s Oldham Maggie’s Centre

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Construction has started on dRMM’s Maggie’s Centre in Oldham – claimed to be the first permanent building in the world to be created from cross-laminated hardwood timber

The new material, made entirely from American tulipwood, was invented by dRMM in a collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council and engineering firm Arup. It was first used for the practice’s centrepiece Endless Stair at the London Design Festival in 2013 (see AJ 16.09.13).

Alex de Rijke, founding director at timber pioneers dRMM, said: ‘We co-developed tulipwood CLT for its inherent lightness, strength and expressive warmth making it the right fit for Maggie’s, structurally and conceptually.’

He said timber had been gaining attention for its advantages over concrete and steel as a renewable resource with a high strength-to-weight ratio and attractive finish.

Granted planning permission in December, the new Maggie’s Centre is now expected to be completed in summer 2017, having originally been scheduled to open in 2016. The Oldham building, the latest in a long line of centres designed by well-known architects for the cancer care charity, will incorporate a distinctive ‘functional artwork’ by Dutch artist Petra Blaisse.

Architect’s view

A Maggie’s Centre can be likened to a house; ours is a house full of surprises. The building hovers over a sloping garden, supported on very slender columns. The garden offers ‘open-air rooms’ framed by pine and birch trees, with a reflecting pool of rainwater discovered underneath the building.

From this central oasis trees grow up through the building, bringing nature into the interior. The building is about content, not form. On entering the deliberately simple timber box over a bridge, the visitor is confronted with a light-filled void of trees and unexpected simultaneous views down to the garden pool below, up to the sky, and out to the Pennine horizon.

The need for both privacy and collectivity is respectively met with discreet meeting rooms and niches carved from a ‘thick’ wall, and the otherwise completely open interior space, planned around the central lightwell. The materials are timber, glass and the outside presence and colours of the garden inside.

Maggie's Oldham designed by dRMM

Maggie’s Oldham designed by dRMM

Project data

Location Oldham, Greater Manchester
Type of project Cancer care centre
Architect dRMM
Client Maggie’s Centres
Planning submission October 2015
Expected completion Summer 2017

Maggie's Oldham designed by dRMM

Maggie’s Oldham designed by dRMM

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