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The building that doesn’t need signage

Maggie’s | Newcastle

I recently took part in a fascinating group visit to Maggie’s Newcastle as part of Northern Design Festival 2017.  Meeting with interior designer David Wallace, in-house architect Diego Seisdedos and the team who run the centre. Learning about the building and how its design relates to those who use it.

The ethos is for the centre to be the total opposite of a medical environment. A relaxed domestic setting where there is access to information and a chance to mix with others who find themselves in a similar position or sit quietly.  There are no hand gel dispensers, clocks and interestingly from my perspective, no door signage  (not even the toilet).  If a door is closed to any room thats because the people behind it want privacy and this is respected.  The heart of the building is the kitchen which includes a large table where people can sit and chat.

I would never have believed what a difference a place like this can make to those with a cancer diagnosis, friends and family

Karen Verrill | Centre Head

Building architect Ted Cullinan wanted the building to appeal to men as he believed they were less likely to use such a facility and wanted to encourage them to do so.  David Wallace’s interiors reflect this in the choice of colours and materials as does the artwork (currently an exhibition of Norman Cornish sketches and paintings).  During the tour we were told that Maggie’s Newcastle is one of the top performing for male attendance.  The centre is open Monday to Friday and costs £2500 per day to run, on any given day they can receive between 100 to 250 visitors.  No one is ever turned away.

From left to right: David’s inspiration for the colours started with the rug on the left hand side, autumnal hues which also pick up on the concrete and steel finishes. Outdoor spaces have been carefully positioned to make the most of the sun with wild flower gardens designed by Olympic Park designer Sarah Price.  Within the centre a shut door acts as a sign that whoever is behind it requires privacy.

Keen to learn more about Maggie Keswick Jencks, the lady behind the concept I read A View From the Front Line (designed by my friends Studio LR). Maggie was an inteligent lady with a background in writing, architecture and garden design. The concept for the first centre (and the blueprint for all) evolved after being told ‘kindly but badly’ she had only a few months to live. She strongly believed that there was a need to provide a space where you could access information, psychological support and advice,  combined with the necessary encouragement to help each person find his or her own best way of coping with cancer. To date there are 20 Maggie’s located next to major cancer centres across the UK and abroad.

Ted Cullian | Architect

Sarah Price | Landscape Architect

David Wallace | Interior Design

Maggie Keswick Jencks

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