Zaha Hadid’s Maggie centre is a steel-and-glass composition set in grassy parkland. Martin Spring admires the dynamism, but wonders if it’s quite what the brief called for …
The only thing Zaha Hadid’s Maggie’s centre in Fife shares with its four sisters is its domestic scale. Otherwise, the 250m2 building, her first to be completed in the UK, exhibits all the jagged forms, sharp angles and dramatically sloping walls that are her hallmark.
The £1m building is opened today by the chancellor Gordon Brown, in whose Kirkcaldy constituency it stands. The design brief was to create “a relaxed and aesthetically uplifting environment”, where cancer sufferers could receive counselling and other personal support to build a life beyond the illness.
Hadid’s response to the brief was to design the building as a transition between the boxy concrete-framed Victoria hospital in Kirkcaldy and a tiny pocket of parkland within the complex. It grows out of a soft grassy hollow within the park and then morphs into an assembly of sheer, sloping, sharp-edged planes of charcoal-grey Corten steel and glass.
The building sits on a concrete ground slab that extends into a south-facing sun terrace and connects it to the landscape. On the south side, the base and side edge of the building continue the steep slope of the grassy hollow. The roof then veers sharply off to one side, to partially shade the sun terrace, before sheering back down at a reverse angle at the other side. This continuous zig-zagging steel assembly frames a window wall of vertical clear glass panels and steel mullions.
From the car park on the north side, the building reads as two dramatically sloping, nearly windowless walls of Corten steel. Another vertical window wall slides behind one of these windowless external walls and contains the main entrance at its far end.
Inside the building, the spaces flow into each other and are defined by the triangular plan, the outward-sloping external walls and curving internal partitions. A row of smaller rooms next to the main entrance can be closed off by a system of shutters and sliding floor-to-ceiling doors. Small triangular windows and skylights are scattered over the external walls and roof to funnel daylight into the building and offer glimpses of the surrounding park and hospital.
Just as would be expected from Hadid, Maggie’s Fife is a predictably stimulating little pavilion that opens itself up to the grassy hollow and large trees. Whether its spiky forms amount to a relaxed environment for cancer patients – as was required in the brief – is perhaps more open to question.
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