A DOUGHNUT-shaped care centre in Glasgow has been named Scotland’s best building at the nation’s annual “architectural Oscars”, held in the Scottish Parliament.
Dutch architects OMA have been honoured with the £25,000 Andrew Doolan Prize for their work on the Maggie’s Centre at Gartnavel Hospital, in the Glasgow’s west end.
The prize has been confirmed just weeks after the £3 million project lost out on Britain’s most coveted architectural honour - the Stirling Prize - to a new research centre at Cambridge University.
The Maggie’s Centre was honoured ahead of the main cultural contender, the revamp of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, which was completed last December.
Maggie’s Gartnavel was the eighth centre to be opened by the charity set up in honour of Edinburgh cancer patient Maggie Jencks, who began developing plans for a series of care centres which would offer an escape from hospital wards and waiting rooms.
The first one opened in 1996, the year after Mrs Jencks, who was married to architect Charles Jencks, passed away.
Maggie’s Gartnavel was built to coincide with the relocation of the Beatson cancer unit from the Western General Hospital in Glasgow.
Created by architects Rem Koolhas and Ellen van Loon, who worked with Mrs Jencks’ daughter Lily on the designs for the centre, it has a distinctive doughnut shape, allowing all of its rooms to surround an internal landscaped garden.
The area outside has been landscaped to give the impression of being in a “pavilion in the woods”, while there are no corridors or isolated rooms, only a series of interlocking spaces with a clever use of sliding walls to open and close areas, offering flexibility.
Opened last October, it was the first permanent building the architectural practice, which also designed the Seattle Central Library and the Netherlands Embassy in Berlin, had worked on in the UK.
Six buildings in total were honoured by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, with the others including a new revamp of the Corinthian bar, restaurant and nightclub complex in Glasgow, a new block of flats on the city’s Fore Street surrounded by traditional Victorian tenements, an extension to an Ayrshire primary school, and a private home at Boreraig on the isle of Skye, which was inspired by a traditional blackhouse.
They were whittled down from an initial shortlist of 14, which had also included the project led by artist Martin Creed to transform the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh, Cape Cove, a holiday home on the banks of Loch Long, and the transformation of a ruined mill in Caithness into a private home.
Judges of the awards, which have been running since 2002, said the Maggie’s Centre was the “clear winner.”
Veteran Glasgow architect Andy MacMillan, chair of the judging panel, said: “This year we visited 14 projects throughout Scotland which were widely varying in scale and building type. Their quality bodes well for the future of Scottish architecture, but the five special mentions are of truly international quality and the winner is a gem.”
The full citation from the judges about the winning project said: “This is an extraordinary building – a place of calm, simultaneously welcoming and open.
“Maggie’s Centres provide support for people with cancer, their families and friends. Exceptional architecture and innovative spaces make people feel better.
“This single-level building, a ring of interlocking rooms, is close to the Beatson Cancer Centre. The spaces feel casual but allow for privacy. The approach is about modest external expression, embracing a courtyard garden to generate a unique place of gentle contemplation and an exemplary caring environment.”
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop praised the “outstanding quality” of the architecture to emerge in the awards, which are jointly funded by the Scottish Government.
After picking up the award, Ms Van Loon said: “It’s a fantastic honour for us, especially as this was our first ever project in Scotland.
“It was a lovely experience working in Scotland and we had a really supportive client.
“We set out to design the building to be more like a home than a care centre and the biggest compliment we’ve had is that so many people have said they would like to live there.”