The Maggie Centers, or how architecture can heal
The Maggie Centers are the result of Maggie Keswick Jenck’s belief that architecture is able to help care for and restore patients to health. Get to know more about this type of architecture, from its beginnings all the way up through the present.
What are the Maggie Centers?
They are small-scale buildings, always located near a hospital. Their aim is to provide support to cancer patients that may be lacking in traditional hospital structures.
Originating in the United Kingdom, the design of the Maggie Centers reflects their founder ‘s vision for a healing space. The centers’ scale sharply contrasts with the grand size of traditional healthcare buildings.
These unique spaces have been inspired by Maggie’s ideas regarding cancer treatment. They were designed to assist patients, their relatives and friends throughout every step of their illness.
Center services are provided free of charge and are focused on emotional and practical assistance for all visitors.
According to the centers, known as “everyone’s home of cancer care,” their founder’s main idea was that nobody diagnosed with cancer would “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.” Maggie’s legacy is the creation of these centers, which offer a new approach towards care based on her own experience with the disease.
Who was Maggie Keswick Jenck?
Maggie was a writer, landscape artist and designer. She wrote a best-selling book, The Chinese Garden, in 1978, and her appreciation for livable spaces was evident in her body of design work.
In 1993, at the age of 47, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her treatment, she and husband Charles Jencks noticed how cold and impersonal most hospitals were. It was then that they decided to create new healthcare spaces which would be located adjacent to medical centers, but would focus on a different sort of care.
Maggie lived for 18 more months, thanks to chemotherapy. She devoted this time to mapping out the concept for what would become the Maggie Centers, developing the concept along with her husband and a team of medical experts. Laura Lee, one of the original team’s oncology nurses, now serves as the organization’s Executive Director.
Thoughtful design, stress management assistance, and psychological support were all key in creating a positive space in which patients could share their experience and process their illness. The team looked for a site near Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, where Maggie was being treated, on which to build the first Maggie Center.
Architecture of the Maggie Centers
The architect Richard Murphy was charged with transforming a disused pavilion into a medical center, which ended up being the first of 30 total centers currently in operation.
Because each center is designed by a different local architecture firm, each building is distinctive and unique, blending into its immediate surroundings.
Among the architects who have collaborated on Maggie Centers are Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Rem Koolhass. Benedetta Tagliabue designed the first Maggie Center in Spain.
As a charitable organization, the centers continue to be built in cities all over the world, farther and farther from the UK. The architects who work on these projects share Maggie ‘s vision and the values she wished to transmit, such as the conviction that architecture plays an important role in a patient’s journey. The construction of Maggie ‘s Centers is financed by private donations.
Locations and design
Potential sites are exhaustively studied in order to ensure that they possess the characteristics necessary for a Maggie’s Center. For example, they must be located near a hospital and should also include green, open spaces.
The interior spaces do not reflect the common perception of a healthcare building. Rather, they strive to achieve well-being through a harmonious blend of architecture, materials, and interior distribution.
The centers are focused on facilitating personal connections by creating warm, comfortable spaces, more like a home than a public building. This is why the design of each building centers around a large kitchen table, inviting visitors and staff members to socialize and build relationships.
Exterior views looking out onto natural landscapes are created by large windows and glass walls. This connection with nature and emphasis on natural light promotes a warmer, more salubrious environment than the closed spaces and white walls of a traditional hospital.
At the same time, separate and cozy spaces are also available for moments in which visitors require more privacy.
The same level of importance is placed on landscaping as on the building architecture, and garden design is incorporated into the project from start to finish.