Norman Foster speaks of his personal connections

Foster & Partners’ Maggie’s Centre had opened in Manchester.

The cancer support facility was opened by the Duchess of Cornwall at the Christie Hospital in Norman Foster’s home city.

The design aims to establish a domestic atmosphere in a garden setting. The plan is punctured by landscaped courtyards and the western elevation ends with a wide veranda, which is sheltered from the rain by the deep overhang of the roof.  Sliding glass doors open the building up to a garden setting created by Dan Pearson Studio. 

Each treatment and counselling room on the eastern façade faces its own private garden, while the south end incorporates a greenhouse where visitors can work.

Norman Foster said: “I have first-hand experience of the distress of a cancer diagnosis and understand how important Maggie’s Centres are as a retreat offering information, sanctuary and support. 

“Our aim in Manchester, the city of my youth, was to create a building that is welcoming, friendly and without any of the institutional references of a hospital or health centre – a light-filled, homely space where people can gather, talk or simply reflect.

“That is why throughout the building there is a focus on natural light, greenery and views; with a greenhouse to provide fresh flowers, and an emphasis on the therapeutic qualities of nature and the outdoors.

“The timber frame helps to connect the building with the surrounding greenery – externally, this structure will be partially planted with vines, making the architecture appear to dissolve into the gardens.”

The centre also has bespoke furniture designed by Norman Foster and Mike Holland who heads up the practice’s industrial design team. This includes kitchen units and table, sideboards and other shelving units.