Maggie's Centre case study

Maggie’s Centre, London


Maggies’ Centre, London, provides information and emotional support for people with cancer, within an environment specially designed to contribute to wellbeing and which includes a number of well-designed outdoor areas, each easily accessible from the building.

Project description

The centre provides an oasis of peace and tranquillity for people, despite being located on a busy site in central London, next to Charing Cross Hospital. For many people, cancer carries a stigma: the Centre addresses this by presenting an informal, beautiful, non-clinical healing space. With such a high quality building and planting, everything about Maggie's shows that they care about their visitors and the places they spend time in.

Visitors are drawn into the Centre by the striking design and a sense of intrigue created by the path winding through trees, past small sculptures. For others, the lush planting in the garden provides an inviting space just outside the entrance, where they can sit till they are ready to come in.

The garden areas are predominantly at first floor level, creating an outdoor ‘terrace’. All of them form a very important part of the design and provide opportunities for both social contact and solitude with a mixture of communal spaces and more private niches.Birch trees enclose the building and in time will create the sensation of a building in a wood; herbs such as rosemary and lavender grow in the garden, some used for medicinal purposes, and lemon-scented foliage in the courtyard invites the touch.

Key achievement

The high profile of the garden areas within the facility have been instrumental in achieving a non-institutional feel to the Centre which acts as a real antidote to the busy-ness of the Charing Cross Hospital nearby. Clever design of the building has ensured that every room has its own direct access into a garden area and extensive glazing means that even those who choose to stay indoors benefit from the therapeutic effects of a view onto a green, natural environment.

What are the health benefits?

There is growing evidence to show that the emotional state of cancer patients, and that of their family and friends, can influence their cancer experience, treatment and recovery. Well-designed environments such as the Maggie’s Centre in London, especially those which include contact with nature, have been shown to enhance quality of life and a person’s ability to cope with stress. Reducing stress has in turn been proven to facilitate the healing process.

A creative approach to patient care embraces the restorative powers of nature. Cath Knox, who used the centre said of the garden that “ it will allow people to be themselves and have their own space without having to speak to anyone and sometimes that’s more valuable than any medicine: one can take courage from being in a good place, breathing in courage and breathing out fear”.

A researcher’s view

Researcher Angie MacDonald said: “Most people said they felt that the plants softened the building but also the whole experience of being there. The plants simultaneously create a sense of calmness (soothing) but also a sense of energy – people often talk about being fascinated by the speed things grow at and they look forward to seeing the next stage in the plant’s development; there’s a vitality about the buds opening, and new leaves un-furling.

For people with cancer, anything which helps them look forward to the future with a sense of hope is massively helpful”.

Lessons learnt

  • Creating an attractive seating area around the front of the building makes a space where people can collect their thoughts and hopefully enter the building feeling less apprehensive;
  • Planting design takes great skill: the plant combinations here have been thought through with great care, and radiate calmness and tranquillity;
  • At the project outset the space to the front of the building did not form part of the site, however its potential was identified in time by the landscape designer who realised that if included it could accommodate a route into the building for those arriving on foot from the main Charing Cross Hospital entrance. This has represented a major improvement to people’s experience of the site.


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