Maggie’s Centre Cheltenham


Metropolitan Workshop has received the green light for a sensitive new extension to increase the capacity of Maggie’s Cheltenham as it approaches its tenth birthday. The new extension will enable a greater number of people to use the centre, which provides support to those affected by cancer and their families. Opened in 2010, the existing centre was designed by Richard MacCormac and comprises a refurbished Grade II listed Victorian Lodge with a substantial contemporary addition.

Maggie’s Cheltenham sits within the grounds of Cheltenham General Hospital on the banks of the River Chelt. Originally planned to accommodate 2,000 visitors a year, in the first year of opening the centre received 6,000 visitors and in 2018 it received 19,000 – a reflection of the vital role of Maggie’s Centres. Given the significant growth in numbers, in 2013 Maggie’s approached Richard MacCormac with a brief to reconfigure and further extend the centre.

At that time MacCormac, who was himself battling cancer, included former colleague and Metropolitan Workshop founder Neil Deely in early conversations about the design.

The site is narrow and confined on three sides by the River Chelt and NHS facilities, meaning that the existing trellised garden to the east of the Lodge was the only viable location for an extension. Metropolitan Workshops’ architectural language is derived from MacCormac and Deelys’ initial sketches in 2013 and further influenced by the forms of the outlying ‘refuges’ of the original scheme. MacCormac’s approach to the original Centre was influenced by Gaston Bachelard’s reflection in the The Poetics of Space . ‘The house as a repository of memories and dreams, of mysterious alcoves, cabinets and the serendipitous discovery of secret spaces’.

Externally, Metropolitan Workshops’ new addition sits firmly alongside the Grade II listed Lodge. The connection to it is set back behind its building line allowing the Lodge to maintain its prominence in the site. The new proposal is single storey with a minimal glazed connection to the existing building to emphasise the separation from the listed Lodge. It will provide a further 75-85 sqm of floor space, enabling the centre to accommodate larger group activities that are currently being split across two spaces. In addition to the new group space there will be new snugs, a WC and storage.

Private space for one to one consultation is available via MacCormac’s original incidental nooks and alcoves, in addition to the retained refuge. Metropolitan Workshop introduced subtle changes in level that provide a degree of privacy. The heart of the new centre will now be a lozenge shaped space that contains the kitchen and the group table which face
one another. The kitchen is enclosed in a curved wall form that projects out into the garden, creating a more legible approach to the centre. The group table faces a new courtyard garden which provides light into what is inevitably a deep plan building.

Team: Fiona Cobb, Cobb & Co (Structural Engineers & Drainage) / WSP (M&E) / AFA (OS) / Facerhoffman Landscape Design

Status: Planning (Approved)

"“We are so pleased to be in the very capable hands of Neil and his team at Metropolitan Workshop. They have been able to develop a design that perfectly compliments Richard MacCormac’s original work. Over ten years our centre has been able to help a huge number of people affected by cancer but we really are creaking at the seams. The additional space that the extension will provide is hugely welcome.”"

Chris Watson, Property Director at Maggie’s

The primary south-facing elevation is constructed of rammed concrete and cut stone, which will complement the buff brick of the Lodge. The employment of concrete will illustrate the stratification of its construction method against the decorative cut stone above, while also providing the building with a sense of enclosure and permanence that is emblematic of Maggie’s Centres. Flanking the curved stone wall will be two wings of minimal glazing which reinforce the original use for the trellised garden as an external room. A visible serpentine path runs the length of the garden alongside a water sculpture by the artist William Pye, where a cantilevered stone seat will be positioned off the concrete wall. Dense roof planting over the drum building will emphasise the relationship to the considered landscape.

Internally, the rammed concrete will be polished to maintain the tone that connects it visually to the Lodge. Its brick wall will be left exposed, underlining again the singular nature of the separate buildings. The central lozenge form is expressed by an exposed steel ring beam which visibly supports the more lightweight oak roof structure either side.

The accepted proposal has been sensitively navigated by Metropolitan Workshop, taking on the role of next-generation architects for the extension of the centre 10 years later. Metropolitan Workshop has created a centre to accommodate the increased visitors, with a unifying design approach composed of three unique buildings.

Neil Deely talking about Richard MacCormac’s original design;

“Richard conceived the original building as a series of cabinets, like a big piece of joinery. Conceptually, this idea was compatible with Maggies’ approach to the layout of their centres.

Maggies Centre Cheltenham, existing interior. Photograph Credit: MJP Architects.


Unlike in more institutional buildings, the spaces are unrestricted and flow into one another, aiding the open and convivial ethos of Maggie’s. We have continued Richard’s idea of cabinetry with furniture that subdivides the different functions without the need for internal doors or full height walls.”

Maggies Centre Cheltenham, existing interior. Photograph Credit: MJP Architects.