Text description provided by the architects. Maggie’s Newcastle, completed in May 2013, injects a seasonally responsive, fluxing, landscaped realm into the Freeman Hospital grounds. Responding to the forces of sun and time, the centre sits still within its landscaped banks, and under a planted roof allowing copper beeches, cherry blossom, crocuses, wild flowers and herbs to delight with the seasons. Up to 1000 people have already visited the centre in its first month, which is unprecedented in Maggie’s history.
Maggie’s cancer care centres offer social, emotional and practical support to people with cancer, their friends and families. They provide a comforting, nurturing atmosphere so that in time, the centre becomes a home from home for people who need support.
Low energy design informed the very first moves of this Maggie’s centre. Maggie’s Newcastle creates a south facing courtyard which maximises passive solar heating, with heavily insulated north walls and roof, and an exposed structural frame that stores heat-energy put into the building. The roof is formed to collect sunlight and transform it into energy.
The building radically transforms the hospital site. Materials are chosen to be warm and tactile (timber and clay tiles), and calm (concrete). The building entrance welcomes the nervous visitor and a calm series of internal spaces constantly link to the therapeutic courtyard; some open, some private to provide a choice for users. The scheme is built on the premise that a relationship with the natural environment is crucial. Grassy banks planted with flowering perennials transform the difficult car park site and slope around the centre on all sides. These banks provide shelter to the south-facing courtyard, creating a warm haven.
The building is composed around an L-shaped plan. At the centre, where two wings of accommodation meet, a double-height library incorporates a stair up to the mezzanine level, which leads out onto the landscaped flat roof. The roof garden is furnished with a bowling green and fixed exercise equipment for those feeling energetic. It is surrounded by an elegant clipped beech hedge which provides some privacy and changes colour with the seasons from green in summer, to golden brown in winter, chiming with the corten steel cladding around the roof perimeter. In common with all Maggie’s centres, the Newcastle Maggie’s has a kitchen table at its heart. Here people can gather around for a cup of tea and a chat with other people with cancer, or to find the clarity they need from Maggie’s team of professional experts.