I recently had the pleasure of visiting Maggies Centre Swansea, this formed part of the research in to the design I’m working on for the new Maggies Centre at Bart’s due to open in late 2017. Turning a corner towards the centre, this is the view I was presented with and it lifted my heart and filled me with excitement. A curved, streamlined building designed by Kisho Kurokawa appears to rise out of the ground in a sleek, armadillo like way. The garden, designed by Kim Wilkie, consists of a large, well used allotment and at the rear, a cleverly landscaped meadow area with hedges atop of landform. The most spellbinding thing about the layout for me was the position of the Figs seen here. Maybe it was just the fantastic Autumn colour but they work brilliantly to signify a change. Change in pace, one which is considered, yet joyful. Once in the building, the planters appear in glimpses through the many windows and help the building connect to its planted exterior.
The brief given to Maggies Centres architects and designers is incredibly powerful and is lifted from the blueprint Maggie Keswick wrote down before her passing on how she hoped cancer patients could be supported in well conceived and imaginative buildings with views on to gardens and the natural environment. This has been achieved with aplomb at over 20 centres established over the past 20 years and being asked to design the Barts project is not only a huge honour but a unique chance to understand how one single brief can be interpreted in so many ways.
Discovering Maggie Keswick through her writing and the way in which Maggie’s operates has been life changing. The message is clear. stand up for beauty, stand up for a loving, caring society and importantly for all garden designers out there, believe that your work can have a profound effect on the persons who use the spaces that we design. All to often I think we applaud the aesthetic of wonderfully built gardens without talking about the effect we hope our gardens have on the soul.