AL_A Wins Planning for Southampton Maggie's Center

AL_A Wins Planning for Southampton Maggie's Center

UPDATE: AL_A has won planning permission for their Southampton Maggie's Center design. According to a report by the Architects' Journal, the 420 square-meter "disappearing" building will be the charity's 19th center. It is set to open in 2017.

Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A) has submitted plans for a new Maggie's Center in the English coastal city of Southampton. Sited at the Southampton General Hospital, the proposed center will provide free practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer and their family and friends. The new building aims to provide a warm and welcoming sanctuary within the built-up hospital environment.

"Bringing a bit of magic to the place, the building emerges from this wild naturalistic landscape with an almost ethereal clarity," described AL_A. "Subtle, understated and imbued with light, it is designed to lift the weight from the shoulders of all who visit and work there."

Entrance . Image © AL_A

From the architects: Maggie’s Southampton will be set within the haven of a garden transported from the New Forest into the midst of the hospital’s concrete landscape. Bringing a bit of magic to the place, the building emerges from this wild naturalistic landscape with an almost ethereal clarity. Subtle, understated and imbued with light, it is designed to lift the weight from the shoulders of all who visit and work there.

A woodland oasis in the grounds of the hospital’s suburban campus, almost three quarters of the 1,470 square-meter site is given over to four distinct gardens that reflect the ecology of the nearby New Forest.

The 420 square-meter centre is set within a shallow bowl to create a sheltered natural enclosure that breaks the topographical uniformity of the car park and separates the centre from the surrounding sea of cars. Densely planted trees and shrubs define the perimeter of the site, providing privacy and protection from the outside world. This copse of trees thins towards the centre of the site, where four walls, radiating outwards at right angles to one another, define four gardens, each with its own character and species.

The architecture and landscape work in tandem with these four walls forming the framework of the single story centre. These fixed walls are made from cast ceramics, rooting the centre to the earth in which it stands. Arranged in a concertina-like effect, alternate faces are either subtly glazed to reflect the greenery or are left matte to speak of the clay that forms them.

The heart of any Maggie’s Centre is the kitchen, the first space that visitors encounter and an important gathering space for users and staff alike. A reference point in the middle of the building, the kitchen immediately establishes a comforting, domestic atmosphere in contrast to the more institutional spaces of the hospital. It sits below a circular skylight that brings daylight and sky views deeper into the building.

A series of movable partitions divide the communal space of the kitchen from the open-plan space around it, allowing a flexibility that enables Maggie’s to cater for a wide range of activities and to provide semi-private rooms appropriate to the work of the Centre.

The building is staged so that privacy increases as you move away from the kitchen, with four private rooms where visitors can have a quiet moment or a one-to-one conversation arranged between the ceramic walls of the building. These private spaces become boxes with fixed walls, clad in one way mirrors that reflect the surrounding gardens, causing the walls to seemingly disappear into the naturalistic planting, reflecting back the trees and flowers. The glazing is treated with a special coating to make it visible to birds, overcoming the risk of collisions.

Reflective materials and surfaces are used throughout the interiors of Maggie’s Southampton to draw the changing, seasonal colous of the garden into the interiors and further the sensation of a building that vanishes into the woodland.

About this author
Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "AL_A Wins Planning for Southampton Maggie's Center" 05 Jan 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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