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Churchill Hospital, Oxford

Maggie’s, the charity providing free practical, social and emotional support to those with cancer and their families and loved ones, launched its programme of support at the new Maggie’s Centre in the grounds of The Churchill Hospital, Oxford.

This took place on Tuesday 1st July, with an innovative agenda to relieve those who are in need of support.

The Churchill Hospital is located in the heart of the Thames Valley Cancer Network, covering Oxfordshire and its surrounding counties. The new Maggie’s Oxford Centre delivers cancer support of the highest standard to people within the area. Every year 5,000 people in the region are diagnosed with cancer, as the number increases the support available becomes even more vital and necessary for the well-being of those diagnosed and involved.

Included within the new programme are fresh ideas and schemes, such as expanding the support groups, providing more available workshops and new additions such as Tai Chi sessions. All of these inspirational proceedings are in place to improve the well-being of those involved, keep them active and smiling and induce friendships.

The artistic design of the Maggie’s Centre was fashioned by commended architects Wilkinson Eyre, whom increased facilities and created more space within the centre. Wilkinson Eyre successfully improved the private counselling spaces, provided a library and information area and formed a large main room for group support.

Also playing a big part in the new developments was main contractor Jackson’s Contracted Ltd, whom transformed the design concept into a reality using their resources, experience and acquired set of skills. Premier Construction caught up with Managing Director of Jackson’s Contracted Ltd, Alan Jackson, to ask a few questions about the project. He said:

“Wilkinson Eyre started working on the design of the new centre at Churchill Hospital five years previously, with the concept that it was to be a tree house. The design idea was chosen because of the levels and existing contours of the site. The main footprint of the building lay approximately 3 meters lower than the main adjacent road with a backdrop of mature trees. Therefore the concept was that the building be raised above the ground like a traditional tree house, sitting on stilts, level with the road and connected to the footpath by a bridge.”

Due to the abundance of trees, and restrictions placed around their crown and root system, Jackson’s were not permitted to dig traditional foundations so the building was constructed with screw piles as foundations and then pile caps added. From these pile caps, large timber columns support the structure of the tree house.

The main building is predominantly timber, with full height glazing externally from floor to roof which enables as much natural light in as possible, keeping the area light and airy. External balconies facing the trees have been situated for those at the centre to stand and appreciate the landscape, wildlife and

stream. Warming the building during the colder months is an underfloor heating system powered by ground source heat pumps.

All balconies are glass and therefore clear and within the building are a number of roof lights to allow visibility through to the sky and any overhanging branches, providing a serene view set in a natural enclosure. Likewise the floors integrate glazed panels so that almost all of the building is clear, offering a contemporary concept on a traditional tree house.

The pioneering design is totally unique and therefore ideal for the Churchill Hospital and the Maggie’s programme for those affected by cancer, to project a touch of light and love into the hospital and the lives of those involved. The tree house is something that can be admired for its great beauty and technical design, providing somewhere exciting, positive, and inspirational.

As the design was so unique, it was a challenge for all trades involved and their interaction with each other. Constructing and designing a building 3 metres off the ground on inclined structural columns was quite a challenge in itself, especially when taking into account the restrictions of the site and its access.

Careful selection of materials, their structural/architectural properties and design, all contributed to the success of this quite stunning unique space, providing a comforting and inspirational environment for all visitors.

The feedback since the completion and opening of the centre has been extremely positive. The architects, client and staff are all very pleased, as well as everybody utilising the building. The centre was designed to inspire people, and that has definitely been achieved.

When asked what it meant to the contracting company to be a part of this project, Alan replied:

“It was a great opportunity to be involved with the project; we were interested initially because it was such a unique and ambitious building and we wanted to take on the challenging design. It was of course also fantastic to contribute something to Maggie’s charity programme for those affected by cancer.”



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