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A PLACE FOR HEALING

by Mavis Wong on Oct 17, 2013 in Architecture , Interiors
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The new Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre Hong Kong, designed by master architect Frank Gehry, is a place to heal, inspire and uplift people via its environment

When the Opus residential complex was launched in Hong Kong last year, reaction was immense for the fact that development – Frank Gehry’s very first building in Hong Kong – set a price record for Asia. Seven months later, when the Pritzker Prize-winning architect unveiled his next assignment for the territory, it was quite a different story. Neither ultra-luxury nor high-profile, Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre Hong Kong is, on the contrary, an inspirational facility for patients.

The first Maggie’s outside of the UK. Founders Maggie Keswick Jencks – who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988 and lost her battle with the disease in 1995 – and Charles Jencks believed a warm, inviting environment that meets the very personal needs of people dealing with cancer is a critical component of care, and that the architecture should inspire. This conviction is encapsulated at the new centre in Hong Kong, a creative collaboration between Gehry Partners and landscape architect Lily Jencks (daughter of the founders) with Ronald Lu & Partners (RLP) as project architect.

“Maggie’s book, The Chinese Garden, was the inspiration,” says Gehry, who designed a series of connected pavilions with rooms opening out to the gardens and individual terraces overlooking the pond. As inspired by the Suzhou Gardens, the architecture and landscape are strongly connected, offering an inviting space that inspires hope and serenity.

“[Frank and I] designed Maggie’s Hong Kong as a building and landscape at the same time, so that they respond to each other specifically. The initial idea came from the Chinese scholar’s garden tradition, which used pavilions in a landscape. In these designs, the garden and building are very interrelated, with neither one dominant over the other.” explains Lily Jencks.

“In some way, this is a metaphor for how Maggie’s works: just as the building is not considered alone or isolated, it’s the environment around the individual, the cancer patient, that is influencing how the patient is being treated.”

At Maggie’s Hong Kong, healing is indeed effectively integrated into the architecture and landscaping, with a continuous flow between interior and exterior. The building splits the pond into two distinct bodies. For the pond that is orientated towards the lawn and distant mountains, the private consultation room opens onto two balconies which encourage users to step outside and enjoy the view. On the other side of the centre is a smaller pond that features another consultation room accessible only by a bridge.

Follow the path over the bridge and you’ll reach the garden where the third consultation room is found. Lily Jencks carefully selected rock sculptures and indigenous shrubs to create a garden that appears undomesticated. “The rocks help to anchor the outdoor spaces and are a lot of fun,” she says. “They have an imaginative quality that inspires meditation. We placed one directly across from a consultation room, so that looking at it will help surprise you and take you outside of your practical problems. That is how art should function.”

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