AL_A CREATE AN OASIS OF CALM IN HOSPITAL GROUNDS FOR MAGGIE’S SOUTHAMPTON
The latest Maggie’s cancer support centre at Southampton General Hospital, designed by award-winning architecture studio AL_A, will formerly open next month. Maggie’s has 25 years of experience providing free cancer support and information in centres across the UK. The new centre, which transforms a corner of the hospital site previously used for car parking, offers support for the hospital’s specialist oncology unit, serving a population of 3.2 million people across the region.
A woodland oasis set in the grounds of the hospital’s suburban campus, almost three quarters of the site is given over to four distinct gardens that reflect the ecology of the nearby New Forest. Amanda Levete, Principal of AL_A, says: “We have imagined that a piece of garden has been transported from the New Forest into the midst of the hospital’s car park, bringing serenity and a bit of magic to the place.”
The building emerges from this naturalistic landscape with an almost ethereal clarity. The gardens are cut through by four walls that radiate from a large central space, defining more discrete spaces in each of the four corners. As in all Maggie's centres, the kitchen table sits at the heart of the building; a skylight above brings daylight and sky views deep into the building. The private areas, including consulting rooms and quiet spaces, open onto the gardens through full-height glazed sliding doors which disappear into pockets in the walls, removing the boundaries between landscape and building.
The building’s skeleton, which extends outside of the building enclosure, is formed by the four blade walls made from ceramics. The earthiness of the clay colour roots the centre to the ground. The four corners are clad in a mottled stainless steel giving a dreamy reflection of the surrounding landscape, placing the garden front and centre. The structure itself seems to disappear as it reflects the surrounding trees and planting.
The garden has been designed by award-winning landscape designer, Sarah Price, codesigner of the 2012 Gardens at the Olympic Park in east London. “There’s no doubt that looking at ‘nature’ has a positive impact on how we feel. The landscape is inspired by the New Forest, and draws its healing power from the rich diversity of the Forest’s flora: wood anemones, orchids, wild garlic, lesser celandines, bluebells and primroses, mosses and ferns, growing in the woodland pathways.”
Dame Laura Lee DBE, Chief Executive of Maggie’s, says: “I am absolutely thrilled with our newest centre designed by Amanda Levete and her team at AL_A. They have interpreted our brief beautifully and their exacting attention to detail has created a stunning building with large windows that flood the centre with natural light. Their play on inside and outside space and the close working relationship with landscaper Sarah Price has created a garden that will give people with cancer and our staff views of greenery on all sides. Intimate rooms allow for privacy whilst the communal spaces bring people together around a kitchen table to share their stories and support one another”.