Maggie’s Centre Barts

by | 08. Jan 2018

Extension/ redesign | Health | Project
a night shot showing the colourful building interior shining through the glass facade.

Maggie’s Centre Barts by Steven Holl Architects. © Iwan Baan

Maggie´s Centre Barts by New York-based Steven Holl Architects is located at St. Bartholomew´s Hospital in the northwest of London. The building replaces a pragmatic 1960’s brick structure that was previously located next to the last remaining wing of the hospital, a 17th century stone structure by James Gibbs. With its translucent, colourful façade and curved corners, the new Maggie’s Centre contrasts the existing hospital building and enhances the site’s historic heritage by complementing it with new shapes and materials.

an interior picture showing an informal meeting place looking into an internal courtyard

Maggie’s Centre is a place where people with cancer can get practical, social and emotional support. © Iwan Baan

showing the internal staircase that connects all floors through the central atrium

Inside, an open curved staircase follows the building’s curved frame and connects the floors and vertically lined spaces. © Iwan Baan

an image of the main staircase and it's relationship to the colourful facade

Along the façade, a glass envelope and colourful panels washes the interior with colours during daylight hours. © Iwan Baan

Being London’s oldest hospital, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and the adjacent St Bartholomew the Great Church was founded in the 12th century for the “restoration of poor men”. Today, the new Maggie’s Centre offers support and respite for cancer sufferers and their relatives. It is one of several centres located around the world, designed by high-profile designers such as Richard Rogers, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Snøhetta, who uses architecture to create calm, uplifting environments for the people who visit and work in the centres.

watercolour axonometric showing the 3 layers of the building

The new centre is envisioned as a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel”. © Steven Holl Architects

an image showing the different layers of the building - glass facade, concrete frame, and a bamboo interior.

The building features a concrete frame, a layer of bamboo wood and a skin of matt glass. © Iwan Baan

a group of three overlook the staircase balcony which is lined with lightly coloured bamboo

The interior is in perforated bamboo, creating a warm, comfortable atmosphere. © Iwan Baan

The new Maggie’s Centre is envisioned as a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel”, with a branching concrete frame, an interior of bamboo wood and an exterior skin of matte glass Inside, an open staircase follows the building’s curved frame and connects the floors and vertically lined spaces. The interior perforated bamboo creates a warm, comfortable atmosphere that underlines the centre’s function as a place for comfort and support. And with its colourful window panels, the glass envelope washes the interior with colours during the day, and gives the building a luminous, glowing presence from the street.

a watercolour illustration showing the relationship between the facade and music notation

The colourful glass panels models the medieval method of writing down music, called “neume notation”. © Steven Holl Architects

a watercolour illustration showing the colourful facade concept

The translucent glass is divided into horizontal strips. © Steven Holl Architects

a streetscape showing the relationship between old and new buildings

The glass strips “lift up” to reveal clear transparent windows at the building´s ground level. © Iwan Baan

The exterior glass is a new type of polychrome insulating glass developed especially for the centre. Divided into horizontal strips, the translucent glass follows the diagonal geometry of the main stair and “lifts up” to reveal the main front entrance and clear transparent windows at ground level, giving the building an inviting image towards the public. The colourful glass panels along the façade follow the specific rhythm of the medieval method of writing down music, “neume notation”, and thus serve as a tribute to the site’s historic heritage.

A close up of the facade modules and how colour works within them

The clear windows give the building inviting image towards the public. © Iwan Baan

A watercolour sketch of the internal staircase and atrium

A watercolour sketch of the internal staircase and atrium © Steven Holl Architects

While most of the existing Maggie’s Centres are horizontal, the new Maggie’s Centre at St. Barts by Steven Holl stands out with its three-story vertical design.
At ground level, the main space contains a common kitchen and dining area, as well as a separate counselling room and a “pause area”, tucked away to one side. A second entry on the west façade opens up to a restorative garden with trees shared with the adjacent church.

The first floor contains a library with seating areas as well and adjacent rooms for offices and counselling. The upper floor comprises a room that opens out onto a curved roof garden with a curved glass wall. As a peaceful, flexible space, the garden can be used for meetings or restorative classes, such as Tai Chi and yoga.

An image showing the difference between the opaque glass of the facade and the transparent glass looking into the internal courtyard.

Upper floor, with the curved glass wall towards the roof terrace. © Iwan Baan

An image looking down from the staircase into the atrium with a kitchen and dining area at ground level.

The ground level contains a kitchen and a dining area. © Iwan Baan

a night time image showing the new building next to existing historic ones.

The building creates a complementary contrast to the historic hospital. © Iwan Baan

Initially, the new centre’s different, modern façade and its proximity to the historic hospital building caused controversy, and other proposals suggested that the new centre should be restored to its original design. But in the end, Holl’s proposal was decided as the most suitable approach: with a building that shows how a complementary contrast between old and new can pay respect to history, and at the same time open up for new, modern readings of the historic site.

Black and white drawing of the ground floor plan

Ground floor plan. © Steven Holl Architects

Black and white drawing of the first floor plan

First floor plan. © Steven Holl Architects

Black and white drawing of the second floor plan

Second floor plan. © Steven Holl Architects


COUNTRYUnited Kingdom
SIZE600 sq.m