London’s St. Bartholomew’s (Barts) hospital this week saw the traditional topping out of the new Maggie’s Centre for cancer care. Organised by contract manager Sir Robert McAlpine, the ceremony saw a piper playing while an evergreen bough was nailed to the highest point of the building. Also in accordance with tradition, “noggins of ale” were involved.
A radical design that attracted much controversy when first revealed, the three storey building is based around a complex insitu concrete “branching frame”. This will ultimately be clad in translucent matte white glass panels with coloured glass inclusions, through which the frame will be visible, with clear glass at the entrances. The topping out ceremony took place in what will eventually be a public roof garden.
Located adjacent to the 18th Century Grade 1 listed Great Hall of the hospital the new building replaces a 1960s brick clad structure. It will share a new lift shaft and toilet facilities with the Hall, which is also undergoing renovation.
Access to the site is extremely limited. All plant, materials and equipment had to come in through the Henry VIII Gate, which dates from 1702, and be manoeuvred around the medieval church of St Bartholomew’s the Less.
An archaeological investigation before construction started revealed layers of previous use, right back to the Roman period. Among the discoveries were seven skeletons, believed to be those of Roman soldiers.
Structural design was by Arup, while the architect was New York based Steven Holl Architects. The new Centre is due to be opened next Spring.