"The Architecture of Hope", goodbye to Charles Jencks

Dow Jones Architects, Zaha Hadid Architects, Steven Holl, Benedetta Tagliabue, Charles Jencks,

Lluc Miralles, Iwan Baan, Nigel Young, Anthony Coleman,

Scotland, London, Barcelona, Spain, Cardiff,

Health & Wellness,

Maggie's Cancer Centre,

Charles Jencks, who together with his wife Maggie co-founded Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres, passed away on October 13, 2019 at the age of 80. Today, the project includes 26 centres located in Britain and internationally. New Maggie's Centres were inaugurated in Barcelona, Hong Kong and Tokyo, a complex of buildings collectively referred to as “architectures of hope”.

24 years after the foundation of the first Maggie's Centre, on Sunday October 13 architect Charles Jencks, co-founder of the project, passed away.
Born in Baltimore in 1939 but of Scottish origin, Charles Jencks was a celebrated architectural theorist and historian, as well as a landscape architect. Jencks earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature at Harvard University in 1961 and a Master of Arts in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1965. After moving to the UK, in 1970 he earned a Ph.D. in architectural history at University College London. A student of great historians including Sigfried Giedion and Reyner Banham, author of numerous publications translated into many languages, Jencks rose to fame in the 1980s, as a leading theorist of Postmodern architecture.

His main interests concerned landscape architecture as a place of symbolic exploration, an interest that began with his move to Scotland and the design for the Portrack House in Dumfriesshire, his private estate with a garden. The garden project started in 1988 is known as the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, representing the cosmic and cultural evolution of the contemporary world. The garden is dedicated to the memory of Jencks’ second wife, Maggie Keswick, who died prematurely. With the help of scientists and friends, Jencks designed the garden based on natural and scientific processes. The intent was to celebrate nature with nature itself, while also incorporating design elements and artificial materials, drawing inspiration from concepts such as fractals, black holes, genetics, chaos theory, waves, etc. The architect in fact saw contemporary science as a strong driving force for creativity, a research on the truth that demonstrated the beauty inherent in the universe, as explained in his "The Universe in the Landscape" published in 2011. His most notable landscape architecture projects include: the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in collaboration with the Terry Farrell and Partners firm; Designs for Black Hole Landscape, IUCAA, Pune, India, 2002; the Parco del Portello in Milan 2002-2007; Two Cells - Inverness Maggie's Centre, 2003-2005; Northumberlandia Landform, 2004; Cells of Life, Jupiter Artland, Bonnington House 2003-2010; Crawick Multiverse, 2006; Memories of the Future landform and reclamation project, Altdobern, Germany; the Wu Chi, Black Hole Oval Terrace, in the Beijing Olympic Park in 2008; and the transformation of an old open-cast coal mine as part of a land art project called The Scottish World, in St. Ninians, Kelty (abandoned in 2013 when the clients hit financial difficulties).

In 1993, his second wife’s - Maggie Keswick - cancer diagnosis inspired the two architects to devote themselves to a project focused on the creation of new cancer treatment centres. Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres are warm and welcoming buildings where patients can find comfort, care and support. Numerous internationally renowned architectural firms immediately collaborated on the project, including Frank O. Gehry, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, OMA and Steven Holl to name just a few. Jencks told the BBC that receiving a commission for a Maggie's Centre project was equivalent to receiving a major award like the Oscar. Today, the network of Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres includes 26 facilities located in the United Kingdom and internationally, including the Barcelona Centre designed by architect Benedetta Tagliabue from the Miralles Tagliabue EMBT firm that recently opened its doors.

(Agnese Bifulco)

(01-06) Images courtesy of Wikipedia
(07 - 15) Images courtesy of Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres and architects: photo by (07-08) Lluc Miralles, (09) Nigel Young / Foster + Partners, (10-12) Anthony Coleman, (13-15) Iwan Baan

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