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Archekta and Ark-shelter complete Warm Nest cancer care centre


A series of wood-lined communal spaces constructed from modular units form Warm Nest, a cancer care centre in Belgium by architecture studios Archekta and Ark-shelter.

Operated by the hospital AZ Zeno near Bruges, Warm Nest is designed to be an inviting and comforting place for patients with cancer and their loved ones to come together.

Exterior of Warm Nest by Ark-shelter and Archekta in Belgium
Archekta and Ark-Shelter have created Warm Nest in Belgium

According to Slovakian studio Archekta and Belgian studio Ark-shelter, the ethos of the project was informed by Maggie’s Centres – a network of cancer care centres operated by the charity Maggie’s that was founded by Maggie Keswick Jencks and the late architectural historian Charles Jencks in 1995.

Since its founding, the charity has commissioned an illustrious roster of architects to design its spaces, including Daniel Libeskind, Amanda Levete and Steven Holl.

View into Warm Nest cancer care centre
The cancer care centre is constructed of prefabricated units

“The client, AZ Zeno hospital, was in touch with Maggie’s and was inspired by the Maggie’s care philosophy,” explained the studios.

“[We see] this project as a snapshot in the long list of initiatives to support truly restorative design, one piece to contribute to the honourable path of creating healthy and healing environments,” they continued.

Wood-lined living space by Ark-shelter and Archekta in Belgium
It features a series wood-lined gathering spaces

Warm Nest is organised on a grid around two internal courtyards and constructed using Ark-shelter’s own system of prefabricated, modular units that measure four by six metres.

A communal dining room and kitchen beside one of the courtyards form the heart of the centre. It is surrounded by spaces for relaxation, gathering and focus, as well as office and therapy rooms.

These different facilities led Archekta and Ark-shelter to design a variety of openings that ensure different levels of privacy and lighting conditions. This includes full-height glazing in the bright, open spaces, and clerestory windows and skylights in the more enclosed, intimate rooms.

“The modules form a strict and rational grid, but from the patient’s point of view, movement is fluid and organic,” explained the architects.

“The dining room is the heart of the house; the place with the most light, allowing for a space to gather for introverts as well as extroverts, sun and shade, views outside or into the comfortable courtyard,” they continued.

Wood-lined kitchen of Belgian cancer care centre
A communal dining room and kitchen form the heart of the centre

Above, the first floor contains a pair of private therapy rooms that are topped with glass roofs and overlook the centre’s courtyards and surroundings through square windows.

Along Warm Nest’s southern and western sides, two small terraces accessed via folding glass doors provide outdoor gathering spaces, while a paved path to the north connects the centre to the nearby road.

Courtyard of Warm Nest by Ark-shelter and Archekta in Belgium
There are two courtyards

The interiors of the centre are lined almost entirely with exposed spruce panelling, which has also been used to create built-in storage.

In the dining room and gathering space, the angled wooden ceiling slopes upwards towards the narrow skylights, helping to scoop light down into the interiors.

Interior of Warm Nest by Ark-shelter and Archekta in Belgium
Warm Nest’s private therapy rooms are topped with skylights

In the UK, architect Amanda Levete recently completed a Maggie’s Centre in Southampton that is clad with a mirrored surface that reflects the surrounding gardens.

The photography is by BoysPlayNice.


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