Steven Holl Architects breaks ground for Maggie’s Cancer Centre in London

Maggie’s, the charity that provides free social support for people with cancer, their family and friends, today celebrated the start of construction work for a new Centre in North East London designed by SHA.

The site in the centre of London is adjacent to the large courtyard of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. Founded in Smithfield in the 12th century, the hospital is the oldest in London and was founded at the same time as the St. Bartholomew the Great Church in 1123. Rahere founded the church and hospital “for the restoration of poor men.” Layers of history characterize this unique site, connecting deeply to the medieval culture of London.

The building is envisioned as a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel.” The structure is a branching concrete frame, the inner layer is perforated bamboo and the outer layer is matte white glass with coloured glass fragments recalling “neume notation” of Medieval music of the 13th century. The word neume originates from the Greek pnevma, which means ‘vital force.’ It suggests a ‘breath of life’ that fills oneself with inspiration like a stream of air, the blowing of the wind. The outer glass layer is organized in horizontal bands like a musical staff while the concrete structure branches like the hand.

Once established the new Centre is expected to receive 20,000 visits a year from people affected by cancer. A time capsule was compiled including a signed watercolor print from Steven Holl, and archive materials from St Bartholomew’s Hospital.