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Maggie’s Centres

In support of our charity of the year ‘Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund’ it seems fitting to recognise the new authorised planning development by Sir Norman Foster for a new Maggie’s Centre in south Manchester, which will be due to open in 2016. 

The Maggie’s Centres were first founded by Maggie Keswick Jencks who lived with advanced cancer for two years. During this time she used her knowledge and experience to create a ‘blueprint’ for a new type of care. All Maggie’s Centres are built around her belief that people should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”

Currently there are now 17 Maggie’s Centres in the UK that have all been designed by leading Architects/Designers. Each centre bringing the designers own individual qualities and interpretations to the same type of brief, which is based purely on the needs of a person living with cancer.

The images below illustrate the first Maggie’s Centre built in Edinburgh, designed by Murphy Architects in 1996, which was built as a redevelopment of old stable blocks that blended traditional Scottish stonework with modern architectural methods. 

Maggie’s in Edinburgh

Maggie’s in EdinburghMaggie’s in Edinburgh

“My inspiration was to slip a building within a building, with lots of little niches and intimate spaces”. The open plan nature allows for an emotional openness, with sadness as well as laughter, while the more private spaces allow for peace and quiet.” (Murphy, 1996)

The external spaces were considered equally important as the Architecture and Interior Design, to ensure that each transitional space coincides with one another. Emma Keswick was the chosen garden designer giving the landscape colour all year round with calming stimulus away from the hospital. 

Maggie’s in Dundee 

Maggie’s in Dundee Maggie’s in Dundee

Maggie’s in Dundee was designed by none other than leading Architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2003. It was the first ‘new build’ centre to be designed and constructed. The curvy silver roof was inspired by a traditional Scottish “butt n’ ben” dwelling, offering peace and sanctuary. “I think it’s an inviting building, people will want to come inside and spend time there, and I really hope that in some small way it might contribute to a sense of rejuvenated vigour for moving forward and living life” (Gehry,2003)

The gardens and surrounding landscape were designed by Arabella Lenox-Boyd and demonstrates a ‘labyrinth’ based design, which symbolises life; “It isn’t a maze! There are no dead ends, but you have to trust you will find a route through, even though often it feels like you are heading in completely the wrong direction.” (Lenox- Boyd, 2003)

The contrasting forms, curves and interpretations can be seen throughout this collaborative design to illustrate how architecture and design can reflect the surrounding outside spaces and vice versa. 

Maggie’s in Nottingham

Maggie’s in NottinghamMaggie’s in Nottingham

For students based in or around Nottingham, or perhaps you are planning a visit to the Academy, you may wish to make a ‘stop off’ before you head home and take a look at one of the most renowned Maggie’s Centres in the UK for its innovative design. 

Designed by Architect Peirs Gough and built in 2011, it is said that the interior of the Nottingham Maggie’s Centre is the most distinctive of them all, with the interior being designed by Nottingham ‘born and bred’ designer, Paul Smith. His prominent mix of colourful prints and fabrics, meets classic design and furniture. Each room within the space has been designed to create a different atmosphere and evoke feelings and inspiration.  “The idea is that you walk in and say ‘oh isn’t that a lovely fabric?’ or ‘isn’t that hideous?’ -whatever it provokes, at least it’s a kick-off of a conversation.” (Sir Paul Smith, 2011)

The landscape around the Maggie’s Centre in Nottingham was designed by a London based practise Envert Studio, whose inspiration and focus was to enhance and reflect scent and texture when selecting which plants to implement. 

Maggie’s in Manchester

Maggie’s in Manchester

The latest Maggie’s Centre has been given the ‘go ahead’ for Sir Norman Foster, which will be based in south Manchester. Working in partnership with the ‘Christie,’ who are a global leader in cancer research and treatment, the new Maggie’s Centre will provide free support for anyone living with cancer, as well as family and friends affected. The new centre will offer a non-clinical environment where anyone that is affected by cancer can gain advice, guidance and support.

“This project has a particular personal significance, as I was born in the city and have first-hand experience of the distress of a cancer diagnosis. I believe in the power of architecture to lift the spirits and help in the process of therapy. Within the Centre, there are a variety of spaces, visitors can gather around a big kitchen table, find a peaceful place to think or they can work with their hands in the greenhouse.
Throughout, there is a focus on natural light and contact with the gardens. The timber frame, with its planted lattice helps to dissolve the architecture into the surrounding greenery.”
(Foster, 2014)

The interior spaces will feature wooden surfaces and tactile fabrics, while the surrounding gardens will be designed by landscape architect Dan Pearson, offering clusters of flowers and calming water features, set within peaceful gardens to reflect and engage with the outdoors.

Arranged over a single storey, the timber structure wraps around a central spine with the roof rising in the centre to create a mezzanine level and illuminate with natural light.  The centre will also feature a pool with moving water that will provide a calm space that will be set amongst deep canopies to shelter the centre’s open terraces from the rain.

Other designers that have been used are Richard Rogers, Japanese Architect Kisho Kurokawa, Ted Cullinan and Zaha Hadid, amongst many other awarded designers.

The versatility and interpretation for each Maggie’s Centre that has been designed and collaborated by different specialisms to produce spaces for the same purpose, is testament to the diversity of Interior Design and Architecture.

Which concept/final design do you prefer? Or do they all have individual qualities that reflect each designer that has taken part to replicate their own specialisms? 


Waite, R. (2014) Architects Journal, Norman Foster plans for Manchester [online]. Available from- [Accessed: 28.05.14] 

Frearson, A. (2014) Norman Foster Maggie’s centre Manchester [Online]. Available from – [Accessed 25.04.14]

Unknown (2014) Overview of Maggies Centre’s [Online] Available from – [Accessed 25.04.14]

Unknown. (2014) Maggie’s Centre Nottingham [Online] Available from: [Accessed 25.04.14]

Foster. N (2014) Foster and Partners News [Online] Available from: [Accessed 25.04.14]

Unknown. (2014) Maggie’s Centre Edinburgh [Online] Available from: [Accessed 25.04.14]

Gehry, F. (2014) Maggie’s Centre Dundee [Online] Available from: [Accessed 25.04.14]

Unknown. (2014) Maggie’s Centre Dundee [Online] Available from: [Accessed 25.04.14]

Unknown. (2014) Maggie’s Centre Manchester [Online] Available from:[Accessed 25.04.14]

Manchester Confidential (2014) Maggie’s Centre [Online] Available from: [Accessed 25.04.14]

Open Buildings. (2014) Maggie’s Centre Nottingham. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 25.04.14]

Inhabitat. (2014) Maggie’s Centre Nottingham. [Online] Available from.

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