Maggie’s has a reputation for using well-known architects for their new cancer care centres. The architects, in turn, have a tendency to combine innovative design with the use of timber, structurally, in interiors, or both.

Cases in point are Frank Gehry’s Dundee Centre and Foster & Partners’ in Manchester. Wood is used not just for its aesthetic, but because it is felt to induce an air of calm, sanctuary and well being for patients and personnel.

dRMM’s design for the latest Maggie’s Centre in Oldham continues this heritage, but with a very novel twist. It pushes the use of wood that bit further, the result being the first building constructed entirely in hardwood cross laminated timber (CLT). More significantly still, it is CLT created in American tulipwood, one of the most prolific and therefore sustainable hardwoods in the US, but conventionally used in interiors as an affordable material for joinery and cabinet carcassing. Construction of the single-storey, 260m2 building, comprising 17m3 of CLT, manufactured and prefabricated into panels by Zublin, started last April and is due for completion late spring/early summer this year.

Like previous Maggie’s architects, dRMM chose to use timber for its ‘health and well-being’ benefits and ‘expressive, warm finish’, with the material extensively exposed inside and out, in the form of tulipwood ceiling and exterior (thermo-treated) cladding.

It also appealed structurally, for use as the walls, due to the superior strength-to-weight ratio of CLT.

But, as he explains in his TTJ opinion column (page 17), dRMM’s Alex de Rijke said the practice also wanted to create a highprofile demonstration of the abilities of engineered wood generally and CLT American tulipwood specifically.

The practice has pioneered the use of engineered timber since 2000. It also worked with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and engineers Arup on the Endless Stair tulipwood CLT structural showcase project at the 2014 London Design Festival (LDF), which received worldwide media coverage. The Oldham Maggie’s Centre takes the engineered wood story further, said Mr de Rijke

“It’s another pivotal point for modern construction…a demonstration of the construction ability and potential of tulipwood hardwood CLT and a manifesto for wood as the natural choice for the architecture of health and psychological well being,” he said.

AHEC European director David Venables was equally enthused.

“The first use of tulipwood CLT in Oldham is a huge success for AHEC’s promotional programmes,” he said. “Our pioneering work with Arup, dRMM and also Alison Brooks Architects, on last year’s Smile LDF tulipwood CLT showcase, has helped bring exciting new product to market, at a time when our industry needs to sell more low grade [hardwood] lumber and architects want high performance timber solutions.”