Maggie’s Centre Ninewells NHS Hospital

by | 24. Jul 2012

Feature | Health

Photo: arcspace

Maggie Keswick Jencks, who died of breast cancer in 1995, pioneered the setting up of several small cancer caring centres in the UK. The philosophy behind Maggie’s Centres is that your immediate environment affects your well-being. These intimate buildings are the first stage in helping sufferers manage their fears.

Built on the landscaped grounds of  Ninewells NHS hospital this is the third Maggie’s Centre to be built from a list of 10 commissioned from leading-edge architects, including Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and Richard Rogers Partnership.


Photo: arcspace

The financing for Maggie’s Centre in Dundee came from charitable donations and local fund raising. Frank Gehry, who was a close friend of Maggie Jencks, waved his fee.

The building, Frank Gehry’s first in the UK, is situated on a hill overlooking the beautiful Tay estuary and the landscape beyond.

I hope the architecture won’t override the purpose of the building, but complement it and take it to a higher plane of comfort and beauty.
/Frank Gehry

Photo: arcspace

During the design process Gehry built over 70 models before he  finally settled for two key elements: the tower, inspired by lighthouses, and the asymmetrically folded roof, based on a shawl worn by a woman in a Vermeer portrait he had seen with Maggie, for the main body of the building.

The roof construction, a latticework of Finnish pine and laminated plywood, is finished in stainless-steel shingles, with a soft matte finish, that reflects the clouds drifting by. With no gutters, the rainwater will cascade off the roof onto “soakaways” in the ground. There are few right angles or straight walls and every pitch and angle of the complex roof is completely different.


Photo: arcspace

arcspace visited the building on the last day of construction watching the team of craftsmen applying the finishing touches before the September 25th Inauguration.


Photo: arcspace

Domestic in scale the building contains a communal therapy room, a kitchen with a cooking island, a big table and a padded bench along the window-wall, an information area and a circular library  with a more private room above. Behind the staircase there is an intimate corner where you can sit by yourself and look out at the landscape; Gehry has not wasted any floor space.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace

Pools of daylight and the warm laminated plywood wood create a welcoming and friendly environment  with views of the landscape and the sky from every corner.

Curving stairs lead  from the library  to the circular more intimate room above which has a skylight and one oversized  window,  shaded by a large timber overhang, looking out across the Tay estuary.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace



Sketch courtesy Frank O. Gehry

It is a stimulating and uplifting “house” that brings to mind Gehry’s early California houses.


Model photo: Whit Preston



CITY Dundee
COUNTRY Scotland
ARCHITECT Frank O. Gehry & Associates Inc.
James F Stephen