Maggie’s Oldham

Maggie’s Oldham

To the architect, Maggie’s Oldham is a deliberate exemplar of how to create a fresh, uplifting and caring environment while eliminating the use of harmful materials.

Maggie’s Centres were established to offer a safe and welcoming place for people affected by cancer, where they can receive practical and emotional support to lift their spirits and to draw on hidden strengths. There are now 21 centres, all built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, and one of the latest, designed by architect dRMM, is in Oldham. Free services offered to cancer sufferers and their families range from psychological support to benefits advice, nutrition workshops, art therapy and yoga. To the architect, Maggie’s Oldham is a deliberate exemplar of how to create a fresh, uplifting and caring environment while eliminating the use of harmful materials. As director Alex de Rijke explains: ‘The use of wood at Maggie’s Oldham is part of a bigger design intention to reverse the norms of hospital architecture, where clinical institutionalised environments can make patients feel dispirited. In wood there is hope, humanity, scale and warmth. Maggie’s Oldham is a carefully made manifesto for the architecture of health, realised in wood.’ Skillfully positioned between the traditional red brick buildings of Oldham Royal Hospital, the centre is a simple single-storey enclosure in plan. The site has a dramatic change of level and the architect has raised the building up on slender columns to create level access, by means of a ramped bridge, from the road and from the NHS Victoria Breast Care Unit. From here there are great views of the Pennine hills and the north wall is fully glazed to make the most of this. The raised position also ensures that the interior is not overlooked and is a private space. The interior is largely open plan, with small consulting rooms, toilets and seating niches along the east wall, a kitchen and dining area on the west wall and, emerging from its centre, a magnificent asymmetric tube of glass, its curved walls enclosing a specially planted birch tree which rises from the undercroft. The south wall has a covered terrace with a staircase leading down to a garden where people can sit outside or grow food in a large greenhouse. The building is pioneering in its use of timber. It is the world’s first hardwood cross-laminated timber (CLT) building, using sustainable American tulipwood, which has a higher strength and lighter mass than spruce or pine CLT. The external cladding, internal structural walls, floor and roof, the ceiling and all the furniture are made of timber.

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