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Home / Latest News / Top architect creates inspirational surroundings for cancer patients

Top architect creates inspirational surroundings for cancer patients

A Welsh architect who revived one of London’s architectural gems is masterminding plans for new “inspirational surroundings” at Velindre Cancer Centre.

Alun Jones, 49, from Caerphilly, who designed the refurbished interior of the crypt at Christ Church Spitalfields, in London, is creating a new support centre for cancer patients in Cardiff .

The Maggie’s Centre, next to Velindre Cancer Centre, will be built with pennant sandstone and Chelsea Flower Show award-winner Cleve West will be brought in to transform the gardens around the site.

How the inside of Maggie’s cancer care centre at Velindre Hospital, in Cardiff, will look

Mr Jones, who with wife Biba Dow, 45, is a partner in London-based firm Dow Jones Architects Ltd, transformed the dilapidated 1729 crypt designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor into a cafe, gallery, function space, and parish lounge.

Up to £4.5m is needed for the new Maggie’s Centre in the Welsh capital.

The charity, which operates throughout Britain, was started by Maggie Keswick Jencks, who died of breast cancer in June 1995.

It offers free practical, emotional, and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends.

Social settings

The centres pride themselves on helping cancer sufferers in inspirational, social settings with a kitchen “at the heart” of the building.

Mr Jones, whose firm concentrates on heritage and cultural work and high-end residential properties, said: “She (Maggie Jencks) studied architecture and her husband is called Charles Jencks. He is a very famous architectural historian and theoretician.

“The first Maggie’s Centres were built by their friends and people like Richard Rogers (the designer of the Senedd), Zaha Hadid (designer of the London Aquatics Centre), and Frank Gehry (designer of the Guggenheim Museum) – so if you look at Maggie’s Centres it’s like a who’s who of world famous architects.

“Four or five years ago now they approached us and asked us to design one. When they did we were the smallest and youngest practice they’d ever asked to do a Maggie’s Centre and it’s an amazing honour to be asked to design one.”

Enhances support

The new Maggie’s Centre, which has planning approval, will enhance the cancer support already offered to the 1.5m people treated in Cardiff, Newport , and the South Wales Valleys.

It is anticipated the centre will receive up to 20,000 visits a year once established.

The refurbished interior at Christchurch, Spitalfields

Swansea has the only designated Maggie’s centre in Wales, on the grounds of Singleton Hospital, and that mainly serves people in West Wales.

The facilities are typically built in the grounds of specialist NHS cancer hospitals.

Meanwhile Prince Charles toured Christ Church Spitalfields last week and met Mr Jones as the architect who plotted the refurbishment.

‘Honoured to work on project’

The architect, who won a competition to renovate the dilapidated crypt, described working on the year-long project, completed last autumn, as an “honour”.

He added: “This was amazing. If you ask any architect who their favourite British architect is most will say Hawskmoor and if you ask what their favourite Hawksmoor building is they say this one – so the stakes were high.”

Christchurch, Spitalfields, where Welsh architect Alun Jones designed the refurbished crypt

Charles last visited Christ Church Spitalfields in 2005 after it reopened following extensive restoration.

During the visit he chatted to members of organisations and groups that meet at the church including the Spitalfields Crypt Trust – a charity, previously based in the crypt, which provides practical support and training to people who have been homeless.

‘Really remarkable’

Before unveiling a plaque to officially open the crypt Charles told the guests: “Above all I just wanted to congratulate the whole team who have put this together and expended such effort and dedication, all the crafts people and the artists and others to achieve something really remarkable.”

Biba Dow (from the left), Alun Jones, Martin Goodfellow (project architect), Andy Rider (rector) with Prince Charles in the refurbished crypt

Cambridge graduate Mr Jones’ firm is also working on a £5m extension to London’s Garden Museum, based in the deconsecrated parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, next to Lambeth Palace.

The work will create a series of bronze-clad pavilions around a cloister garden next to the church.

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