This is the latest in a series of Maggie’s cancer caring centres, designed to provide support for patients in a domestic and informal manner. The garden represents a significant evolution in the design of Maggie’s gardens, being based on research findings about the therapeutic effects of domestic-scale gardens.
The building and enclosed gardens are conceived as a single linked composition sitting within the perimeter lime-tree policy woodland of Airdrie House. The landscape design retains existing policy trees, adding new ones and creating a dialogue between an entrance courtyard to the west, a shady woodland garden to the east, the building, enclosed courtyards and the trees. The northern edge of the garden has shady spaces for counselling and confidential moments.
This exceptional therapeutic environment has especial significance in Lanarkshire, which has one of the highest cancer rates in Scotland.
Approximate Map Location
rankinfraser landscape architecture
Monklands Hospital, Airdrie
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Highly commended LI Awards 2016
Maggie’s asks a lot of its buildings and hence of its architects. We expect the physical space to do a significant amount of our work for us. A Maggie’s Centre sets the scene for people going through a traumatic experience. They are places where people draw on strengths they may not have realised they had in order to maximise their own capacity to cope. We need buildings where people can read themselves differently, as individuals in unusually difficult circumstances, not as patients, let alone cancer victims.
We identify ourselves in different ways and one of them is by our environment. This is why we choose architects who we think will rise to the challenge of making spaces for us which help this transition and also do apparently contradictory things.
We need our buildings to feel safe and welcoming. They need to be small, and domestic in scale. On the other hand these little buildings should not pat you on the head, patronise you by being too cosy. They should rise to the occasion, just as you, the person needing help, is having to rise to the occasion of one of the most difficult challenges any of us is likely to have to face. At the very least they should raise your spirits. We need our buildings to recognise that the world of the hospital and a cancer diagnosis turn your personal world upside down, and that in deciding to walk through the door of a Maggie’s Centre people are saying to themselves and to us: “I am adjusting to a difficult and unknown situation that I am finding hard to cope with on my own.”
To a greater or lesser degree, by walking in to a Maggie’s Centre people are asking how they can put their lives back together again. They are hoping for transformation. Giving them a place to turn to which is surprising and thought-provoking – and even inspiring – will give them the setting and the benchmark of qualities they will need in themselves. Knowing there is a place to turn to which is special in itself makes you feel valued.
So we want the architects to think about the person who walks in the door. We also want the buildings to be interesting enough that they are a good reason to come in rather than just ‘I’m not coping’. The first clinical psychologist who worked for Maggie’s, Glyn Jarvis, says that working from a Maggie’s Centre means that he can start a quantum leap ahead of talking to the same people in a hospital context because people have actively chosen to come in. Maggie’s Centres and the way they are designed increase the sense of connectedness between people: they are not alone in this situation and people can find ways of moving forward from the crisis of a diagnosis. The architects should be thinking about the human relationships and connections, and doing the job of helping that happen.
What we’re also looking for in our architects is an attitude. We want people to deliver the brief but without preconceived ideas. We don’t want to say to them: ‘This is the way it is done’. We want them to open our eyes as well. Maggie’s was lucky in our architect for the first Maggie’s, Richard Murphy in Edinburgh, who showed us how much a building can achieve by creating the right atmosphere. We were also lucky to be able to draw on the close friendships of Maggie and Charles Jencks with some of the most imaginative architects working in the world today, and who have reinforced for us how much a good building can do.
We hadn’t realised, until it happened, how powerful a tool it would be that each community feels so proud of its Maggie’s. This works on multiple levels. Critical to the success of Maggie’s is a strong feeling of ownership by the local community. It makes people feel: ‘This place is wonderful and it belongs to me, and to other people in the same boat as me’. They want to come in. It provides one positive thing to look forward to in their trek to the hospital. It is critical, also, because people talk about their Maggie’s. The Centres do our ‘marketing’ for us. Crucially, these special, unique buildings help us to raise the money we need to build them in the first place, and then to keep them running.
Our buildings are special and we chose special architects, not for
Landscape practice: Rankinfraser landscape architecture; client: Maggie’s Centres; architect: Reiach and Hall Architects; structural engineer: SKM; M&E engineer: KJ Tait; lighting designer: Speirs and Major; main contractor: John Dennis
The relationship of building and gardens at Maggie’s Lanarkshire represents a significant moment in the design evolution of Maggie’s Centres, embodying an academic, research led realisation that delightful, domestic scale gardens associated with these buildings can deliver tangible health benefits and should be included in their delivery. This is at the heart of the project innovation and significance; the gardens are arguably the most useful and usable of all Maggie’s Centres built to date and the relationship of building to its landscape, the most seamless and cohesive. The project is therefore an important signifier of the additional value outstanding Landscape Architecture can bring to a project. This concept is not
rankinfraser’s landscape design is central to the concept and success of Maggie’s Lanarkshire at Monklands General Hospital, Airdrie. The building and enclosed gardens are conceived as a single linked composition sitting within the perimeter Lime tree policy woodland of Airdrie House; a hortus conclusus enclosed by a perforated brick boundary wall extending from the building itself. The landscape design retains the existing policy trees, reinforces this feature with new tree planting and suggests a dialogue between an entrance courtyard to the west, a shady woodland garden to the east, the building, enclosed courtyards and the trees. Retention of the existing trees in conjunction with the boundary walls was an especially demanding technical problem to be solved.
Dappled light and shade from the retained trees and the sound and movement of water are constants in both gardens. In the arrival court, the existing lime trees, a bench and a linear rill; allt beag (Gaelic for little burn), rich with the sound of running water combine to create a sense of dignity, tranquillity and calm and the opportunity for reflection. The trees and water work in conjunction with the compositional and spatial design of the gardens which are derived from the building grid and the near 2.5 metre fall across the eastern garden. This change in level is celebrated and technically resolved via a beautifully considered pre-cast concrete ‘noble threshold’ of terrace, steps and generous seating steps. These steps lead to an evocatively and richly planted woodland garden conceived as an abstraction of the building grid, which is terminated by a still reflective pool.
Small scale (domestic scale is important in Maggie’s projects), richly coloured Dutch clay pavers contrast with the precast concrete and boundary wall treatments. In common with the building, the northern edge of the garden is conceived with private spaces for counselling and confidential moments.