Steven Holl unveils his light-filled Maggie’s Centre for London
The building, located beside St Bart’s in London, is a 'joyful, glowing presence' says the architect
In 1995, just before she succumbed to cancer, the late writer, artist and garden designer Maggie Jencks founded Maggie’s Centres, a charity which has, over subsequent decades, commissioned some of the world’s greatest architects to design and build a series of drop-in centres beside NHS hospitals.
The centres provide free practical, social and emotional support for people with cancer, as well as their friends and families, and the buildings are built to serve as bright, lively places, in contrast to the clinical atmosphere of many oncology wards.
The acclaimed US architect Steven Holl has just finished his Maggie’s Centre beside St Bart’s hospital in Central London, and he’s certainly fulfilled his briefly masterfully.
Holl is known for laying down his initial drafts in watercolour, and imbuing his buildings with a serene, almost holy sense of light and space - something that's brought to life wonderfully in Marcela Spadaro and Freya Najade's beautiful imagery above and below.
That’s certainly apparent in this three-storey building. Fashioned from concrete, bamboo and white, matte glass, the building’s colourful exterior design is inspired by neume notation, a Medieval style of musical symbols, which, the architect says, “originates from the Greek pnevma, which means ‘vital force.' It suggests a ‘breath of life’ that fills oneself with inspiration like a stream of air, the blowing of the wind.”
There’s a kitchen and dining area, counselling rooms, a library and a rooftop garden. However, the architect hopes these different parts of his new building will be brought together via his skilful use of light.
“The interior character of this building will be shaped by coloured light washing the floors and walls, changing by the time of day and season,” explains Holl. “Interior lighting will be organized to allow the coloured lenses together with the translucent white glass of the facade to present a new, joyful, glowing presence on this corner of the great square of St. Barts Hospital.”