The site in the center of London is adjacent to the large courtyard of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Founded in Smithfield in the 12th century, the hospital is the oldest in London and was founded at the same time as the St. Bartholomew the Great Church in 1123. Rahere founded the church and hospital “for the restoration of poor men.” Layers of history characterize this unique site, connecting deeply to the Medieval culture of London.
While most all of the realized Maggie’s Centres have been horizontal buildings, the centre at St Bartholomew's is more vertical, sitting on the historically charged site. It replaces a pragmatic 1960s brick structure adjacent to a 17th century stone structure by James Gibbs, holding the “Great Hall” and the famous Hogarth staircase.
The building is envisioned as a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel.” The structure is a branching concrete frame, the inner layer is perforated bamboo and the outer layer is matte white glass with colored glass fragments recalling “neume notation” of Medieval music of the 13th century. The word neume originates from the Greek pnevma, which means ‘vital force.' It suggests a ‘breath of life’ that fills oneself with inspiration like a stream of air, the blowing of the wind. The outer glass layer is organized in horizontal bands like a musical staff while the concrete structure branches like the hand.