RIBA March 2017 Maggies At The Robert Parfett Building Nigel Young Press Image 1
Maggie's Centre at the Robert Parfett building, by Foster + Partners

Best of the North West | Maggie’s Centre, The Christie

Claire Hamilton PR 300dpiIt may seem odd that I’ve chosen what is effectively a big house as one of the best buildings in the North West from the last twenty years, writes Claire Hamilton of TLT Solicitors.

And for those who haven’t visited Maggie’s Centre at the Christie, that’s exactly what it is: a big, light, airy house with a huge kitchen right at its heart.

But what makes this building so special is the architectural design by Norman Foster and the effect it has on its visitors. Maggie’s offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends as a means of complimenting their conventional treatment.

The building created by Foster ensures that its visitors feel at home, despite the fact that it’s a commercial building and whilst facing possibly one of the worst journeys of their life. It ensures that this can happen in an environment that is tranquil and relaxing.

The building covers an area of 20,000 sq ft, located down a leafy street from The Christie and somehow manages to feel really sunny all the time, despite the ubiquitous Manchester rain.

As you approach the building, you can just about see the glass roof peeking out above the surrounding hedges and it’s only when you get a bit closer that you see the stunning aviation influence. It’s almost like it’s hunkered down, keeping itself secret until the very last minute

But of course, it’s much more likely this was a stroke of deliberate genius by Foster to ensure that the character of the surrounding residential area suffered as little impact as possible.

The centre is surrounded by spectacular gardens with internal courtyards and has numerous canopies over its open terraces. There are so many, you can barely tell which part is inside and which is outside.

The outdoor space offers peace and tranquillity and Foster has certainly managed to adopt the Maggie’s ideal. I find it quite fitting that Maggie’s name sake, Margaret Jencks, was a garden designer.

Inside, the building comprises exposed timber lattice beams with a huge wood burner, all of which give a warm, welcoming, Scandinavian feel. There are numerous rooms, aside from the huge kitchen, ranging from a library and exercise rooms to treatment and consultation rooms, all of which offer visitors a place to socialise, share experiences, escape and seek solace.

Foster’s ethos has been to ensure that the power of architecture lifts the spirits – and I think the Maggie’s building manages to do that to perfection. If you haven’t had the need to visit a Maggie’s centre, then of course that is a blessing. However, should you get a chance I would highly recommend you do so – you will be offered the warmest of welcomes.

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This is indeed a truly beautiful building and Claire Hamilton puts it perfectly here that it feels sunny no matter what Manchester’s weather throws at it.

By EOD