Alex de Rijke, founding director of dRMM, describes the latest Maggie’s Centre in Oldham as a straightforward box with a powerful void in the centre. Located near Manchester, the new cancer support centre has sunshine yellow flooring and corrugated-style timber cladding.
The single-storey building stands on legs over a gravelled garden area. One birch tree has been planted in the centre of the garden and is enveloped by the void’s asymmetrical glazing. ‘The idea was of a kind of treehouse in its wood,’ says de Rijke. ‘I knew that we didn’t need to do much more than bring the outside into the building.’
The firm sited the centre on a northerly corner site of The Royal Oldham Hospital – a space formerly occupied by a mortuary. From there, its north-facing glazed wall has inspiring views to the Pennines.
Explore the architecture of Maggie’s Centres in the UK, including this Frank Gehry-designed facility in Dundee. Photography: Raf Makda
On approaching the centre, the scent of tulipwood – a cross-laminated hardwood – wafts over a short footbridge. Timber is a key ingredient throughout, from the door handles and the slatted ceiling to the kitchen’s walnut-topped counter and large round table.
The wood is off-set by a poured resin floor, and the tall doors – all in an unexpectedly bright yellow. More warmth is expressed through grey felt, used to frame doorways and as a backing to the seating nooks. Meanwhile a full-height reversible curtain loop by Dutch designer Petra Blaisse can cordon off one part of the open plan space for privacy.
‘This is a reaction to hospital design and the reminder that it can be different from the depressing norms of the hospital environment,’ says de Rijke. Maggie’s Oldham is the latest in a string of centres by high-profile and interesting architects at hospitals across the UK and beyond.
London-based dRMM join Frank Gehry, the late Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Snøhetta, Amanda Levete and Herzog & de Meuron, among others. The blockbuster line-up surely makes Maggie’s CEO (and former cancer nurse) Laura Lee one of the most significant commissioners of contemporary architecture.