Maggie’s provides free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends, following the ideas about cancer care originally laid out by Maggie Keswick Jencks. Built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, Maggie’s Centres are places with professional staff on hand to offer the support people need.
Shortlisted in the Building category of the 2019 Wood Awards, Maggie’s Cardiff opened back in April 2019 within the grounds of the Velindre Cancer Centre. The new centre has been designed by award-winning Welsh architects Dow Jones and was developed by Maggie’s organisation working in partnership with the Velindre Cancer Centre to enhance the cancer care and support already on offer at the hospital.
Every year 18,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Wales. The Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff sees around 5,000 new diagnoses a year, with a further 50,000 new outpatient appointments from people living with or after cancer within the South Wales cancer network. The largest cancer centre in the country; it provides specialist cancer services to over 1.5 million people in Cardiff, Newport and beyond. Sam Holliday, Maggie’s Cardiff Centre Head, says:
“We are so pleased to be opening a brand-new Maggie’s centre in Cardiff. Alongside Maggie’s Swansea we will now be able to help people across South Wales throughout their cancer treatment and beyond. Anyone who is currently worried about cancer can just come in to talk to us for free, professional advice and support in a calm, relaxing environment.”
As with all Maggie’s Centres, the building is designed to create a homely space for socialising without the need for a reception desk, signage or any of the other formalities of a typical hospital environment.
The building is located on a triangular shaped site in the corner of the Velindre Cancer Care Centre car park. The site backs onto an existing stand of trees. Dow Jones’ building takes you on a journey from the bleakness of the carpark, through an intimate courtyard garden, into a range of calm and contemplative spaces which focus on a stand of trees and a new landscape garden. The building’s form and materiality reflect the surrounding topography and provide a range of uplifting spaces that have a strong relationship to nature.
The building’s silhouette echoes the shapes of the local mountains, while the rusty, wrinkly steel cladding is the colour of the bracken that adorns the hills. The building is an entirely timber structure. The interior spaces are formed between Douglas fir lined walls which have a warmth and softness, and contrast with the sleek polished concrete floor.
The high-ceilinged centre of the social area is illuminated by daylight that pours in through large roof lights. The space is named the “cwtch” after the small, intimate rooms found in typical Welsh homes and inspired by the simnau fawr (big chimneys) of vernacular Welsh architecture. Rather than subdividing the interior into a series of compartmentalised rooms, the various spaces are connected and arranged around wooden structures containing built-in storage and essential utilities. A simple palette of untreated materials lends the interior a calm and welcoming feel. Polished concrete floors are softened by the warmth of the wooden surfaces, and white-painted walls help the space appear bright and neutral.
Dow Jones worked closely with a group of artists and designers to make the building a rich and enlivening experience and have collaborated with the National Museum of Wales to display works form their collection. Art also features outside the building, with bollards by artist Anthony Gormley protecting the centre from passing cars and a sign by ceramicist Pat O’Leery welcoming visitors.