Calm reflective spaces with an intimate, roof-lit cwtch
RIBA National Award winner 2021
RSAW Award winner 2021
Dow Jones Architects for Maggie’s Cancer Care
Contract value: undisclosed
This building occupies an awkward triangular plot at the back of Cardiff’s Velindre Cancer Centre car park. It is the 19th completed Maggie’s centre and, at first sight, is both striking and surprisingly diminutive. Its orange carapace is formed of rusty corrugated sheeting – a colour that references the region’s red sandstone as well as the autumnal colour of bracken on the nearby hills.
The entrance sits on the southern corner. Once within, a small courtyard embraces the visitor, and an immediate transition occurs from the institutional to the domestic. The mostly open plan is given order by three ‘freestanding’ timber elements, containing toilets, storage and a third tall, intimate space lit from above and inspired by Welsh vernacular chimneys. These elements lead to the kitchen table common to all Maggie’s and provide the only square walls. Elsewhere, exposed rafters play out like waves washing over the geometrically complicated plan above. At the back of the building, two glazed screens open to a wall of trees and a small outdoor seating area. Art has also been infused into the building, including bollards designed by Antony Gormley, which act as rusty sentinels, guarding the public sides.
The building compensates for not being allowed PVs by using a highly insulated prefabricated timber frame that follows Passivhaus principles. It is also 25 per cent smaller than most Maggie’s and less than half of the average cost – it is a temporary structure that will be replaced as the hospital site is developed over the next 10 years. Nevertheless, the project is infused with Welsh vernacular, art and a deep concern for materiality. It creates truly restorative and poetic spaces as an antidote to the shadow of cancer.