Inspired by the concept of a tree house, Maggie’s Oxford at the Patricia Thompson Building, floats amongst the trees in a small copse on the edge of the hospital grounds. Raised on piloti, it treads lightly on the landscape beneath. The twisting geometry of the architectural form creates internal spaces that are full of gentle movement and light.
The site The Centre is located on a steep slope in a little haven of trees in the north west corner of the hospital grounds. In response to this setting, Chris Wilkinson developed the design concept of a tree house which nestles amongst the trees with minimal disruption to the flora and fauna below. A terrace leads visitors around and into the Centre, with views through the trees to a small brook and the nature reserve beyond.
Architectural form Key to the design concept was to create a building that felt warm and friendly. The Centre needed to be tranquil, slightly neutral and not in any way corporate or clinical. A series of three-dimensional planes fragment, fold and wrap into each other around a tripartite plan which allows the structure to fit among the existing trees – and visitors to escape visually into the landscape.
The floor and roof planes rotate geometrically on top of one of another so that the folds and wrapping of the roof walls and floor inform the internal planning and vice versa. External terraces and steps into the woodland allow visitors the opportunity to explore and immerse themselves further. The Centre has been constructed from timber all the way to the ground where informal clusters of tilted columns support the building and evoke a thicket of tree trunks in the woods.
The surface materials are largely timber and glass which are friendly and familiar as well as being self-finished and easy to maintain. While modern, they will weather naturally and sit comfortably within the landscape. The spruce cladding has been treated with a silver/grey solignum stain and the finish will evolve as the timber silvers. The oak trellis feature which provides privacy and shading to the large areas of glazing will also naturally silver and the copper finish of the roof will patinate over time.
In order to cause minimal disruption to the flora and fauna, the building was constructed in crossply laminated timber panels erected on glulam timber columns fixed to concealed screw piles below the ground. Using specialist software which directly inputs into CNC cutting machines, a set of bespoke components with limited repetition was produced to fit the precisely defined geometry of the building.
The design interacts with and embraces nature to provide comfort and reassurance for visitors in their time of need. Layout and internal spaces The internal plan is composed of three wings emanating from a central space which is a direct interpretation of the Maggie’s brief, allowing separate areas for information, emotional support and relaxation. All are linked to the central welcoming heart of the building which has a kitchen, dining table and stove.
The layout of the spaces is free and informal. The Centre is accessed via the library which is discreetly overlooked by the office so that there is no need for a formal reception. Visitors are naturally drawn into the central heart of the building. From here there is direct access to three consulting rooms of differing sizes in the north wing, one large enough for group therapy sessions. The west wing is an informal relaxation area which opens onto a terrace overlooking the stream and fields beyond.
This space is furnished with comfortable sofas and individual spaces in alcoves where visitors can read literature, make notes, or simply be contemplative in a peaceful and pleasant setting. The spaces are of a domestic scale, friendly and inviting but also offering quiet places to retreat and reflect. Clerestory glazing connects partition walls to the ceiling, giving the feeling of an oversailing roof and bringing light through the building.
The size and shape of each window and glazed panel was carefully considered in relation to particular views and a timber trellis overlays some of the panels to provide shade and privacy. Slot openings in the roof allow shafts of sunlight into the spaces and openings in the floor provide views through to the landscape below. Together, these elements combine to create a strong relationship between the internal spaces and the natural surroundings, offering views and light from every aspect.
Location: Oxford, UK
Architect: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Engineer: Alan Baxter Associates
Costruction: Jacksons Building Contractors
Value: £3 million
Photographs: Ben Bisek
Article by Marco Rinaldi