Healing Through Design – Leave The Stigma At The Door!

November 24, 2013

November is a big month for us at Studio EM, as part of our Project EM initiative we are supporting Terry’s Foundation For Pancreatic Cancer as our chosen charity and November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. With that in mind we thought that we needed to share some cancer ass kicking inspiration on this blog and what better way to do that than by tying it in with some interior design.

Our feature project today is one of the famous Maggies Cancer Caring Centres from the UK. Many of you who know me well know how cancer played such a defining role in Studio EM coming about and the Maggie’s Centers are easily one of the most inspiring range of projects that I have come across in terms of the design projects that really do benefit and can change peoples lives.

Maggies Cancer Caring Centres are for anyone affected by cancer. They are drop-in centres where people, including patients, friends and family can get the comprehensive support they need to help them to live with, through and beyond cancer they are specifically designed to be a home away from home where the stigma of cancer is left firmly at the front door.

The new Maggie’s Center is based in Newcastle and was designed by Cullinan Studio and Spiers + Major. A project of this complexity and awesomeness can only be described with proper justice by the designers themselves:

As the spaces are intended as a refuge for people undergoing a distressing time in their lives, the client brief emphasised the creation of a welcoming, domestic ambience as a clear contrast to clinical hospital environments. The challenge lay in achieving both this goal and a BREEAM excellent rating – the latter requiring conformance to CIBSE guidelines for light levels that are clearly intended for more commercial environments. Additionally, a tight budget largely funded by charity donations meant the design had to be kept lean, with each and every luminaire positioned for maximum effect, and equipment carefully chosen.

The centre is arranged around an accessible, partly enclosed courtyard. There are two wings of the Centre – one for counselling rooms and a large living room space, the other leads to the all-important kettle and kitchen table. A central library incorporates stairs up to a mezzanine level, enclosed by an angled roof covered in solar panels.

To achieve the desired feel, as well as the necessary light levels and efficiency, the design of the lighting employs variation in light intensity as well as flexibility in control. Wall mounted fittings; low-level task lights and pendants in warm white are used throughout to provide task and accent lighting, bringing out the timber finishes and referencing domestic style in their design. Local lighting control provides visitors with the opportunity to adjust the lighting to suit their preferences, just like they would in their own homes. As the architect was keen for the lighting to feel properly integrated into the building, the design was developed to follow both the structural grid and the palette of materials.

To provide general lighting, a custom ‘timber raft’ luminaire was developed to sit within the exposed concrete coffers. This bespoke piece follows the 3x3m square ceiling grid and is constructed with honest junctions that reflect the joinery used throughout the building. An LED panel above each square provides a diffuse glow through the deep timber cell louvres. The underside of the raft aligns with the bottom of the downstand beams, and some deliberate back-spill creates the impression that the luminaire is floating off the soffit. Lighting controls are provided so that building users and group events organizers can adjust the ambience to suit their needs.

The corner column in the library is uplit to provide a soft wash across the underside of the roof structure, defining the limits of the Centre from a distance and increasing the perceived brightness of this space, which is otherwise only lit by local task lighting. The mezzanine leads out onto the flat landscaped roof, screened by planting. Both this and the downstairs courtyard space are treated with decorative accents of light to planting groups, extending views on dark evenings out through the glazing. The central tree in the courtyard and the tree in the corner of the roof garden are both softly uplit, providing a visual connection and punctuating the nighttime image of the building. The design is completed with pools of light in the landscape cut-aways, created by interior downlights in each of the ‘V’ shaped windows.

Designer Clementine Rodgers of Speirs + Major commented: “Though not without challenges, this project was a joy to work on – not least due to the very clear priority from the client regarding achieving the right atmosphere for the building users. Given the amazing cause, people have been extremely generous with their time and energy. Whilst the budget was very constrained many suppliers generously supported the project so that the desired result could still be achieved.”

There we have it, a wonderful project, an amazing cause and designers uniting to do some good for the world, changing the world one design at a time, check out the images below and see the above description come to life through the awesome photography of James Newton

Maggies Cancer Centre Newcastle

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Maggies Cancer Centre Newcastle3

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Maggies Cancer Centre Newcastle6