Cancer is a scary diagnosis, and enduring the physical and emotional impact of treatment can be overwhelming and bewildering. Since opening its first site in Edinburgh in 1996, Maggie’s Centres across the United Kingdom have welcomed patients into caring, comfortable environments intended to take the cold, clinical edge off of living with the disease. Now, good design is certainly no cure, but the organization has made it a priority, enlisting big names like Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers to create its spaces, and Steven Holl Architects has been selected to helm the latest location at St. Bartholomew’s in London.
Barts is the oldest hospital in England, dating back almost a millennium, but Holl will transform an existing concrete office block erected in the 1960s into the latest Maggie’s. The nearby Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great (with an equally deep history) provided inspiration in the form of sound, not aesthetics. “Our proposal is like a vessel within a vessel within a vessel,” Holl explains in a release. “In the spirit of music, architecture can be a vessel of transcendence.” An outer layer of matte white and colored glass will soften the effect of the building, while perforated bamboo will line the interior–which will include a large room for relaxation groups, lectures, and meetings, several sitting and counseling rooms, a library and open sitting area, and a kitchen–for an intended effect is far more home than infirmary.