Maggie’s cancer centre ‘amazed’ to be in running for top design prize

THE Maggie’s cancer centre in Glasgow is among six buildings across the UK short-listed for the prestigious 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture.

Also competing for the £20,000 prize from the Royal Institute of British Architects are the London Olympic Stadium, the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in Yorkshire, the Sainsbury Laboratory for plant science in Cambridge and the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

The award, regarded as architecture’s highest accolade, celebrates the best of new British architecture.

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The Maggie’s centre, based at Gartnavel Hospital, was designed by architects at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), which was also short-listed for the New Court Rothschild Bank in London.

Ellen van Loon, the architect for the Maggie’s project, said she was “amazed” to be competing against the Olympic Stadium.

“Hospitals can be terrible environments for cancer patients so we wanted to design somewhere which gave them a lot of psychological support by giving a sense of home. Because it was in an urban setting without a tree in sight, we also wanted to create a sense of something green.”

Rem Koolhaas, who founded OMA, had known Maggie Keswick-Jencks – after whom the Maggie’s centres are named –since the 1960s.

The building was designed to fulfil the remit of all Maggie centres, which is to create a comfortable “safe haven” for practical and emotional support for people with cancer, and their relatives, away from the restrictions of a hospital ward setting.

Located in the old hospital car park, the centre is a distinctive “doughnut” shape which allows all the 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”.

There are no corridors or isolated rooms, but a series of interlocking spaces with a clever use of sliding walls to open and close areas, offering flexibility.

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The competition organisers said the plan “looks haphazard, even chaotic, and there is a medley of different spaces and materials, but this is a masterful composition of highly efficient spaces.”

Lily Jencks, Ms Keswick-Jencks’s daughter, was the landscape designer on the project.

RIBA president Angela Brady said all the short-listed buildings were eye-catching both to users and the public.

“The annual RIBA Stirling Prize celebrates architectural 
excellence and this year we have an incredibly strong list of contenders.

“Every building not only works beautifully from within but has a superb relationship with its surroundings, with a strong interplay between the two. They don’t shout ‘look at me’ and even the tallest building, New Court in the City of London, has created good views for passing pedestrians, meeting the challenge of delivering good urban design in an historic area.”

Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee said: ‘We are delighted that Maggie’s Gartnavel has been short-listed for the Stirling.”

The winner will be announced on 13 October.