Maggie’s Centre, Churchill Hospital, Oxford

Maggie’s, which is a charity offering help and support to people and their families affected by cancer, was near to completing its Oxford branch in the grounds of the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. It had been a long and contentious planning process and the development was only permitted if the grounds were landscaped in a way that sought to restore some ecological value. The beautiful tree house inspired building designed by the architectural practice Wilkinson Eyre was to sit within a landscape concept and design developed by Flora Gaythorne Hardy. Babylon Design were brought in to realize her dream and restore a heavily degraded site that was litter strewn and lacking in beauty of life.

Native trees and hedging plants were sourced and planted before the main area in front of the building was seeded with a wildflower seed mix chosen to replicate the natural flora of the wider area. Under the building, concentric rings of locally occurring stone were built which were intended to both emulate the ripples on the nearby boundary brook as well as the effect cancer has on the lives of those affected by it. The woodland area adjoining the site was cleared of debris, unsuitable non-native plants and garden waste that had been dumped there. Woodland flowers and bulbs were introduced. A hibernaculum was also built using the leftover stone to create a stone dome in which reptiles and amphibians could rest and hibernate.

Since completion, a large amount of wildlife has recolonised the site including many species of bird, butterflies, and even the occasional snake.