Structural Engineers: Alan Baxter Associates
M&E Consultant: KJ Tait Engineers
Quantity Surveyor: Turner & Townsend
Landscape Architect: Touchstone Collaborations with Babylon Plants and Design
Main Contractor: Jacksons Building Contractors
Text description provided by the architects. Wilkinson Eyre has completed the latest Maggie’s Centre at Churchill Hospital in Oxford. Inspired by the concept of a tree house, Maggie's Oxford at the Patricia Thompson Building, floats amongst the trees in a small copse on the edge of the hospital grounds. Raised on piloti, it treads lightly on the landscape beneath while the twisting geometry of the architectural form creates internal spaces that are full of gentle movement and light. The design interacts with and embraces nature to provide comfort and reassurance for visitors in their time of need.
Key to the design concept was to create a building that felt warm and friendly. The Centre needed to be tranquil, slightly neutral and not in any way corporate or clinical. This was addressed by the angular geometry of the architectural form which has added movement and life to the spaces within.
A series of three-dimensional planes fragment, fold and wrap into each other around a tripartite plan which allows the structure to fit among the existing trees – and visitors to escape visually into the landscape. External terraces and steps into the woodland allow visitors the opportunity to explore and immerse themselves further.
In keeping with the woodland setting, the building has been constructed from timber all the way to the ground. To minimise disruption to the flora and fauna, prefabricated crossply laminated timber panels were erected on glulam timber columns fixed to concealed screw piles below the ground. Informal clusters of tilted columns support the structure and evoke a thicket of tree trunks in the woods. The surface materials are largely timber and glass which are friendly and familiar and while modern, they will weather naturally and sit comfortably within the landscape.
The internal plan is composed of three wings emanating from a central space which is a direct interpretation of the Maggie’s brief, allowing separate areas for information, emotional support and relaxation. All are linked to the central welcoming heart of the building which has a kitchen, dining table and stove.
The spaces are of a domestic scale, friendly and inviting but also offering quiet places to retreat and reflect. Clerestory glazing connects partition walls to the ceiling, giving the feeling of an oversailing roof and bringing light through the building. Slot openings in the roof allow shafts of sunlight into the spaces and openings in the floor provide views through to the landscape below. Together, these elements combine to create a strong relationship between the internal spaces and the natural surroundings, offering views and light from every aspect.
Considered details have further enhanced the Centre’s interior spaces: the kitchen table (designed by Wilkinson Eyre) and the colourful rug in the relaxation area (designed by Diana Edmunds) are bespoke designs, while delicate surface lines etched into the timber walls gently reinforce the building’s geometry.