Week 3 - Visit to Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Maggie's London

October 23, 2009
Adrian Holme

On a sunny October afternoon, we met outside the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners practice at Hammersmith (on the way walking from Hammersmith underground down Fulham Palace Road I had my first sight of Maggie's London from the street). At the practice we had a talk from Project Architect Will Wimshurst - who outlined the project, from the first snail like sketch, to the building as we see it today. Ideas included the basic spiral groundplan, the notion of blurring boundaries - including inside and outside, empowerment, providing many different kinds of spaces, lack of signage, retaining a feeling of the domestic house, the kitchen lying at the heart of the building, the close partnership with garden designer Dan Pearson. The roof that sails overhead allows light and air into the interior spaces.

Following Will's talk we walked the short distance to the Maggie's Centre itself, where Corinne Julius gave a talk to us about ways in which we can criticise and interpret gardens and how we respond to this particular garden, plus the interior gardens at Maggie's London - all so integral to the project. 'What is a garden?'

We entered the centre itself and after looking around the spaces Bernie Byrne, Centre Head, gave us a talk, along with Corinne. With a background as an oncology nurse, Bernie explained that she had not anticipated how architecture could play a part in therapy, but she gave examples of ways in which people had been able to respond better to cancer therapy through their experience of the building as well as the support services available. It was as though you are 'hugged by the building'. People had an opportunity to open up, things had a human scale in contrast to the anonymity of an enormous hospital.

There was something moving about the cosy domestic feeling of some internal spaces, contained and yet open - sight lines run right through the building and to the outside and the sky. Concrete which one might think of as hard and cold, seemed warm, and soft to the touch, like velvet. A potentially austere modernism seemed in fact humanised and enveloping, welcoming.

There is no reception. Clients are able to walk in, with no appointment, and are offered a cup of tea from the kitchen that lies at the heart of the centre.

Maggie's London from Fulham Palace Road 'that orange building'

Meeting at Thames Wharf, Hammersmith

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Hammersmith

Camberwell students, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Maggie's London - the model

Project architect, Will Wimshurst

Maggie's London

Corinne Julius talks with students

The garden Maggie's London

Entering Maggie's London

The entrance to Maggie's London

Interior courtyard looking out to garden

Maggie's London - interior, with a domestic feel

Maggie's London

The roof garden

Centre Head, Bernie Byrne talks with students

All photographs on this page (c) Adrian Holme October 2009

Further information:
See Richard Rogers interviewed by Architects Journal, on winning the Stirling Prize for the Maggie's Centre
Will Wimshurst, Project architect talks to Architects Journal about the Maggie's Centre http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhGLc6eonMQ&NR=1