Maggie's Centre. Copyright Hufton + Crow; Maggie's Centre. Copyright Hufton + Crow;

Maggie’s Cancer Centre - Southampton, Southampton

Supporting cancer patients through people-centred design

Supporting people living with cancer, Maggie’s Centre at University Hospital Southampton is a welcoming space for patients, family, and friends – providing emotional and practical support to those dealing with the negative impacts of a cancer diagnosis. Working closely with Maggie’s, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A), we transformed a car park into a light-filled centre with a key focus on user experience.

The centre is designed to be a welcoming, inclusive place where people can relax, talk, and get the emotional and wellbeing support they need. With sustainability and patient experience at its heart, the centre enables Maggie’s to offer cancer support which goes beyond traditional medical treatment. 

Project Summary

360 of cancer support space

600mmtall hollow ceramic units used in construction

A people-focused cancer centre

The vision for Maggie’s in Southampton was for the centre to be designed with the needs of their end users in mind. Maggie’s engaged with us early in the design process to represent the views of cancer patients and provide valuable feedback which helped to inform the final design. Feedback from end users included that the centre needed open and flexible spaces that can be adapted to meet a variety of patient needs. The centre also features insulating rooms which help keep the centre warm while creating acoustically separate spaces for private consultations and centre administration.

The feedback also identified the need for natural light and a view to the outside. This led to the inclusion of large windows and skylights throughout the centre which provide plenty of natural light throughout the year and a view of the encircling gardens. Creating a people-focused cancer centre also meant providing an accessible single entrance that both wheelchair and non-wheelchair users can use.

I have seen first-hand the significant impact Maggie’s makes to individuals experiencing a cancer diagnosis. Their beautifully designed centres have an instantly calming effect and the staff are on hand to offer a full range of support. ” Shona Robison Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

The centre is located in the middle of an existing hospital car park which offered both benefits and challenges. While the centre location is easily accessible for patients and staff, the noise and disruption from nearby vehicles meant creating a relaxing and peaceful environment was a challenge for the design team. To mitigate this, the gardens surrounding the centre act as a calming green refuge, helping to limit the noise and visual impact of the nearby traffic.

People meeting and talking inside Maggie’s centre. © Hufton & Crow

Our approach to client engagement and gathering feedback for this centre was aligned with the approach taken for other Maggie’s Centre projects, helping to ensure the space is reflective of the charity’s working practices and end user needs.

Sustainability at the core of patient support

The design principles and materials used on the project aim to make the centre a low-carbon refuge with minimal requirement for materials to be replaced at a later date. The centre features a ceramic spine wall which is central to its architectural design, with ceramic blocks and timber joints used to make construction less carbon intensive and more cost effective. The use of ceramics removed the need to replace the centre’s internal and external finishes, which would typically be completed multiple times throughout the lifespan of the building – providing a whole-life carbon saving. A soil investigation report also helped to identify the soil on the site as clay, which removed the need for deep foundations as part of the project design. The shallower foundations helped to minimise the amount of concrete required and, subsequently, reduced the centre’s embodied carbon.

Working together with Maggie’s has been an absolute joy; they are a very experienced client and know exactly what they want. The result is a building that responds to the needs of the users, who are at the centre of the design, while supporting AL_A’s bold architectural vision. ” Nina McCallion Associate at Arup

The design team also implemented passive design principles to help reduce the centre’s operational carbon. The building orientation, form, layout, and internal organisation all help to limit solar gains. This happens through shading provided by the surrounding garden and designing the space to be fully naturally ventilated – eliminating the requirement for mechanical cooling.

Aerial view of Maggie's Centre. Copyright Hufton + Crow Aerial view of Maggie's Centre. Copyright Hufton + Crow
Aerial view of Centre and surrounding gardens © Hufton & Crow

The surrounding gardens and green roof implemented on the centre not only helped to create a sanctuary for users, but also enhanced the ecological value and biodiversity of the project. The landscaping, designed by Sarah Price Landscapes, is inspired by perennials and trees found natively at the nearby New Forest National Park. The greening of the centre provides habitats for local wildlife, while helping to keep the building and surrounding outdoor space cooler.

The centre in Southampton is Maggie’s first on the south coast of England and is the fourth Arup has worked on for Maggie’s adding to centres in Dundee, London and Hong Kong. Since its completion, the centre has become a sanctuary for patients and relatives as they navigate the challenges of cancer diagnoses.