From the start the project had the advantage of having a client organisation – Maggie’s Centres – which had an admirable track record in commissioning five previous buildings of this type
The organisation had also developed and published its own architectural credo: ‘Maggie’s Architectural Brief’. This set out the core elements of these buildings, including:
- entrance: obvious, welcoming, not intimidating
- a welcome, sitting, information and library area, from which the rest of the building should be clear
- there should be as much light as possible and views out to grass/trees and sky
- you should be able to see where the kitchen area is (with a table to sit 12), equally the sitting room and fireplace area (hearth and home)
- a large room for relaxation groups, meetings, soundproofed
- two smaller sitting/counselling rooms
- office space for the head of the centre and deputy (easily seen from the welcome area to ensure constant eye contact between staff and entrance)
- a garden area easily accessible from the building but which is buffered from the wider urban context
Unusually, because the architectural practice volunteered its services for free, the commissioning process was carried out by mutual agreement between client and architect.
Having established the core building programme, the architect was free to create as unique a building (with no generic or stylistic impositions) as could be realised on such a difficult site. Maggie’s architectural credo asked that every building it commissioned ‘should rise to the occasion’, ‘raise your spirits’, and be ‘surprising and thought-provoking’. The fact that Maggie’s London won the 2009 Stirling Prize is confirmation that it fully achieved its intention.