Planning permission granted for Maggie’s Yorkshire Centre designed by Heatherwick Studio

Maggie’s, the charity that provides free practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer and their family and friends, has been granted planning permission to build a new Maggie’s Centre in the grounds of St James’s University Hospital in Leeds. The Centre has been designed by Heatherwick Studio, founded in 1994 by Thomas Heatherwick.

Working in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the new Maggie’s Centre will provide free support for anyone living with cancer as well as their family and friends. The Centre, due to open in 2017, will enhance the cancer support already offered by Leeds Cancer Support at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre, through Maggie’s evidence-based core programme of support. The Leeds Cancer Centre provides specialist cancer services to a population of around 2.7 million people across the Yorkshire region.

Laura Lee, Chief Executive of Maggie’s said:

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have been granted planning permission to bring a Maggie’s Centre to Yorkshire. Creating a calm and uplifting environment to enable us to be able to provide our programme of support to people living with cancer is incredibly important and Heatherwick Studio’s wonderful design will allow us to do just that.

“The Leeds Cancer Centre sees over 12,500 people newly diagnosed with cancer per year and we will aim to provide the highest quality of cancer support to the patients of St James’s University Hospital and their families.”

Dr Linda Pollard, Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said:

“I am delighted that the plans for the new Maggies Centre here in Leeds are progressing so well. This is a significant milestone on the way to bringing this superb facility to complement our existing cancer services for patients from across the region.

“There is much work still to do but the signs are extremely promising and we are greatly looking forward to working with the team from Maggies to make their vision a reality.”

Sara Elhassani from Chapel Allerton in Leeds said:

“When I was first diagnosed with secondary breast cancer there was an overriding sense that I was no longer in the land of the living, that I had been dismissed almost, pushed to the edge of the living world. It’s a horrible, scary feeling.

“After visiting the Maggie’s Centres in Newcastle and Nottingham I felt a very strong need for the support the charity provides for all cancer types – somewhere you can just drop in and don’t have to book. The more your condition deteriorates the more support you need. You know what the end of the road looks like and it’s not nice. It’s devastating for you and your family. As cancer patients we spend much of our lives at the oncology department so it’s important to have support close by on the hospital grounds. It’s lovely to have somewhere to drop in whenever you choose.

“Maggie’s Centres are wonderful places for making you feel that you’re still part of the human race, that you belong and are able to be yourself. I’m so pleased to hear there will be one in Yorkshire providing vital support for those who need it across the region.”

Maggie’s Yorkshire has been designed by Heatherwick Studio who, as one of Britain’s most innovative design practices, were selected to design the Centre at St James’s University Hospital as the site demands a high degree of ingenuity to create the calm, uplifting environment so important to the people who visit and work in Maggie’s Centres. Heatherwick Studio’s work includes the award-winning UK Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, the Olympic Cauldron for the London 2012 Olympic Games, and the New Bus for London.

Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Maggie’s to bring a Centre to Yorkshire and to have the opportunity to create a positive environment for users and staff. The site is a small patch of green surrounded by the huge volumes of the existing hospital buildings. Instead of taking away the open space we wanted to make a whole building out of a garden.”

To complement Heatherwick Studio’s design, the surrounding gardens are designed by award-winning landscape designers Marie-Louise Agius and Michael Balston of Balston Agius.

Maggie’s Centres are warm and welcoming places with qualified professionals on hand to offer a programme of support that has been shown to improve physical and emotional well-being. The support available at the new Maggie’s Yorkshire Centre will include psychological support, benefits advice, nutrition workshops, relaxation and stress management, art therapy, tai chi and yoga.

There are already 18 Maggie’s Centres across the UK, online and abroad and all are designed by leading architects. Each architect offers a unique interpretation of the same brief, based on the needs of a person living with cancer, to create the calm environments so important to the people who visit and work in the Centres.

Maggie’s relies on voluntary donations to support and grow its network of Centres and to develop its unique, high quality programme of support. Maggie’s Yorkshire needs £5 million to create the Centre with money raised entirely from voluntary donations.

Description of the new Centre design from Heatherwick Studio

Although Maggie’s Yorkshire is to be one of the largest Maggie’s Centres, the brief was to create a space that felt domestic. Heatherwick Studio saw an opportunity to offer a positive and uplifting environment for its users that spread throughout the interior and outside spaces.

To capture the calming experience of being among plants the studio’s design developed as a collection of large garden planters, defining a building by enclosing a series of spaces between and within them. Their differing volumes draw the planting from the surrounding garden into and over the building itself.

Description of the landscape design from Marie-Louise Agius and Michael Balston of Balston Agius

The external design is generated from the topography, building form, access and views as well as roof usage. The external environment sets out to be in sympathy with the organic form of buildings. It seeks to provide both physical and psychological shelter. A development of low-key woodland will be welcoming, grounding and will celebrate the cycle of the seasons. It creates a familiar natural ambience with no intellectual challenge. Furthermore, it helps re-establish a lost landscape even though at a miniature scale.

At present the site is a tiny island of green, sterilised by mowing and located within a comprehensive blanket of building. But with the enriching ecology of woodland as a prime generator of the overall design, and with new planting at both ground level and roof, the site becomes an oasis in the concrete desert.