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This article was published before Vincent & Brown became Vincent & Partners

Vincent & Brown visit the new Maggie's Centre

Vincent & Brown were delighted to be given a private tour of the stunning Maggie’s Centre in Leeds. The centre provides a safe haven for anyone affected by cancer. Designed by Sir Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio, the objective was to create “a home that people wouldn’t dare build for themselves” and welcome an expected 110 visitors each day.

Maggie’s Centres, first opened in 1996 in Edinburgh, were a blueprint of Maggie Keswick Jencks, a gardener and designer. After a devastating breast cancer diagnosis, Maggie and her husband were left to process the news in a windowless corridor. As a consequence, they identified the real need for a place of refuge for patients and their loved ones, to provide a calm space to process, comfort and reassure.

Maggie’s Centres have opened throughout the UK and abroad, with the directive that patients should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”. The Leeds Maggie’s Centre officially opened in November 2019, and is instantly recognisable by the minimalist palette, Instagrammable curved interiors and beautiful array of plants adorning the space. Located on a steeply sloping site in the grounds of St James Hospital, the mushroom shaped volumes juxtapose the surrounding utilitarian hospital architecture. Upon entering the building, a sense of calmness and safety envelops the visitor with the organic structure unfolding, revealing a mixture of social and contemplation spaces throughout the building. Plants in wicker pots punctuate the space, bringing the outdoors in and increasing the sense of homeliness to reassure visitors with comfort and hope.

The centre piece of the building is a bespoke timber kitchen featuring two cork tables, designed by Heatherwick studio. A feature of all Maggie’s centres, the table invites visitors to a focal point to share their experiences - meticulously crafted, they encourage a real sense of community. And alongside, the pillars of support at Maggie’s are the counselling rooms, which are placed like three pavilions, around a heart for those seeking quiet contemplation and reflection.

Externally, the garden is deliberately lush – Maggie herself was a gardener and understood how calming and restorative it could be to pick up one of the tools left for visitors and get to work.

Heatherwick’s Maggie’s centre is a perfect example how architecture can help enhance lives and improve health and wellbeing, principles as a practice we strive to achieve within any development. We would like to thank Andrew and the team at the Maggie’s centre for taking time out of their day to give us this inspiring tour.



17 Jul 2020