Maggie's Centre: the first building made of American lamellar hardwood, in England

Maggie, in Oldham (England), is the world's first building made of American cross-laminated hardwood (CLT). Designed by dRMM Architects with the support of the American Hardwood Export Council, it is an example of modern and efficient application of an old, innovative and versatile material. 

Maggie's is a charitable organization for people suffering from cancer. Built as the National Health Service (NHS) specialized hospitals for cancer, Maggie’s Centres are warm and cozy places with a qualified staff, offering those who enter a program that improves the physical and emotional well-being.

With the aim of making the structure of the building closer to the philosophy of the centre, the Studio curating the project chose tulipier for the positive influence of wood on people, but also for its beauty, strength and warmth, and for being about 70% more resistant to bending than a typical wood of coniferous CLT.

Wood, as know, significantly reduces blood pressure, heart rates and recovery times. It benefits health and well-being more than any other material used in building industry, as witnessed by the Wood Housing Humanity Report 2015.

In particular, this permanent pioneering architecture work is made up of more than 20 panels of five-layer American hardwood tulipier, from 0.5 to 12m in length, specifically developed by Züblin Timber, CLT specialists. Besides, sustainability was also a main focus: Maggie contains 27.6m³ of tulipier and 1.1m³ of American ash, equivalent to approximately 55.22m³ and 2.1m³ of sawn, which means about 115.7m³ of trunks capable of being reconstituted in 120 seconds.

Since the starts of the Oldham project, we knew it was the right material for Maggie, not only from a structural point of view but also from the environmental and aesthetic ones. An open space, elevated building, all made of wood and glass – with trees growing around and inside it and each detail designed for usability, health and pleasure – which will always be special”, Alex de Rijke, the co-founder of dRMM, commented. “Oldham Maggie has an implicit and visible content of holistic design that supports the essential goals of the project: relieving and offering hope to people affected by tumour. The possibilities of application - thanks to the sustainability of hardwood and, above all, the rapid regrowth capacity of the CLT tulipier - are endless. Environmental, structural and aesthetic qualities are explicitly shown in Maggie by dRMM: a wood manifesto as the natural choice for contemporary architecture for physical and psychological well-being”.

The main table of the kitchen - around which people visiting the Centre are encouraged to sit - was designed by Barnby Day, commissioned by Alex de Rijke and AHEC, for the Wish List project of the London Design Festival 2014 and built by Benchmark Furniture with recycled tulipier CLT. The top comes from the Wish List project, while the base was made with the CLT coming from Oldham Maggie's windows and doors.

For AHEC, Oldham Maggie is not only one of the most important progresses after a decade of research and development in structural wood innovation, but also a project that could expand the use of CLT in construction industry.

This structure shows that hardwood has a key role to play in wooden building revolution”, David Venables says, the European Director of AHEC. “Our previous projects - Timber Wave, Out of the Woods, Endless Stair and Wish List – were all really important, but this Center demonstrates that a building made of CLT tulipier is possible and can be done with a limited budget and within record times”.