All photographs © Iwan Baan PROJECT FACTFILE

Building area: 607 m2 Architect: Steven Holl Architects Associate architects: JM Architects Structural engineers: Arup Glass consultant: Arup Glass manufacturer: Okalux

not be tempered, as McVoy notes: “You can’t heat-strengthen it because it would crack, so it’s laminated for safety.” In collaboration with Okalux, the architects experimented with various means of getting the colour into the glass, which concluded with a method consisting of placing film between two layers of the material. “We loved that because the colour at the edges of the film begins to blur because of the ‘straws’; the blur changes depending on the angle you’re looking at it,” remarks McVoy. “We worked very hard to develop that with them.”

The centre also benefits from the insulating properties of the glass, which helped the building meet its energy goals. There are also two patches of clear glass on the centre’s facade; one at the James Gibbs Square entrance, which appears to lift the ‘musical stave’ from underneath as it slopes upwards around the envelope, and one on the roof – looking onto the roof terrace.

Boundless light

Openable windows are dotted around the building at regular intervals, allowing patients and staff to manually ventilate spaces, and space-saving sliding doors have been installed. In addition, staff and patients can slide the rooftop door open to let the outside in, and are free to move the seating and tables if needed. All of these features give users just that little bit more agency in contrast to the neighbouring hospital, where furniture is fixed, rooms


usually have closed doors, and windows cannot be opened by users.

Diffusing through the glass skin comes “boundless, glowing light,” comments McVoy, with the bamboo “giving a warmness that complements the concrete” on the interior, conjuring an overall calm feel for users. Another key feature for user wellness is how acoustics are controlled in the design of the building’s atrium, meaning that even when the centre is at maximum capacity, users can still easily hear the person they’re talking to, while also feeling enveloped in comforting background sound. Laura Lee, chief executive of Maggie’s

tells ADF about the effect of the charity’s newest building: “Our visitors always comment on how uplifting the centre is from the moment you walk in. The light and different areas and floors give people the option of sitting with other visitors at places like the kitchen table, or on the rooftop, or sitting alone in one of the armchairs to read or take a moment to reflect.”

Summing up the utility of the facade

design, Lee says: “The soft grey frosted glass blends into the surrounding buildings, but the modern design allows the centre to be recognisable enough for people who are looking to visit.” It’s this sensitivity to both the site context and intended users which makes Stephen Holl Architects’ building a worthy, and appropriately distinctive, addition to the much-praised collection of Maggie’s Centres. 


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