Maggie's is an innovative charity that provides emotional and practical support to anyone with cancer, helping them to take a more active and informed role in their treatment. Central to Maggie's offering is making sure this care is provided in a stimulating and uplifting environment, with close proximity to nature. The charity takes great pride in commissioning forward-thinking architects, and asked Chris Wilkinson in 2006 to develop a design for its centre in Oxford. The Oxford Maggie's Centre sits in the densely wooded boundary of the Churchill Hospital site.
To tread lightly in this sensitive environment, WilkinsonEyre designed the building as a treehouse, raised above the landscape. The building is formed from a series of fragmented planes that fold and wrap into each other around a tripartite plan. This allows the structure to fit among the existing trees and provides good views of the landscape. The structure is supported on informal clusters of columns, some tilted, which evoke a thicket of tree trunks in the woods.
The space inside is organised as a set of informal spaces all directly related to one another, eliminating the need for corridors and minimising the number of enclosed rooms. These provide areas for relaxation, emotional support and for more practical information sharing. At the centre of the plan is a triangular hearth space for sitting, cooking and eating, and above is a roof light directly above the main table to create a warm heart to the building.
The hearth is an integral part of every Maggie's Centre, an inviting place where all the building's users can meet and relax. Leading off this is a wing of smaller, more intimate consultation spaces, while the western wing is designed as a more open plan, flexible lounge area with large windows and direct access to the balcony that skirts the building.