The possibilities for change and innovation when it comes to design are limitless and inspirational examples of the scope and power of design are everywhere. One such initiative is the Cancer Care Charity Maggie’s. created by Architectural writer and theorist Charles Jencks and his wife Maggie Jencks, there is now 19 Maggie centres assisting people across the world and online. Maggie’s centres combine breathtaking architecture with professional therapy to facilitate holistic healing and support families affected by Cancer.
In May 1993, Maggie Keswick Jencks was diagnosed with breast cancer and informed that she had only two to three months to live. Receiving this shattering news, and the stream of subsequent treatments in the sterile, neon-lit, and ultimately dehumanising environment of her general hospital, Maggie resolved to create a space where cancer patients would not have to “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.”
Based on this simple concept, Maggie Centre’s are a carefully designed environment that features elements of light, space, openness, and connectedness to nature in order to allow cancer patients to heal not only their bodies, but their spirit. Generally the key elements of healthcare buildings today are determined by practical restraints such as budgets and deadlines – Dutch academic Cor Magenaar blames the separation of Architecture and healing on Modernism and points to examples of ancient temples where healing of the spirit was equally important to that of the body.
Distinguished architects who have designed Maggie’s Centres include Richard Rogers, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Rem Koolhaas. Though it may not be entirely necessary for such famous architects to work on the buildings, it does heighten the charity’s profile, resulting in generous donations that allow them to create such incredible spaces to be enjoyed for free. The Maggie’s centres vary significantly in their size and form. However, they are all modest in size to create an intimate and human environment and they each consist of spaces for gathering, meditation, therapy, consultation, and reading.
Karl Johnson explains, ‘Architects play a critical role in shaping the qualities of our environment; they work in collaboration with end users and their needs and ambitions, and they have the power to restore and promote solidarity, mental and physical health and be a source of happiness” (Karl Johnson 2013). Maggie’s Centres exemplify this and are a unique initiative where design is used to inspire and rejuvenate people as they undergo and recover from cancer treatments.
Rose, S. 2010, ‘Maggie’s Centres: Can architecture cure cancer,’ The Guardian, viewed 16 February 2017 < https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/may/06/maggies-centres-cancer-architecture>
Johnson, K. 2013, ‘Place and public health: the impact of architecture on well being,’ The Guardian, viewed 16 February 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/may/06/maggies-centres-cancer-architecture>
Merrick, J. 2014. ‘Raising the level of Care, Maggie’s Oxford by Wilkinson Eyre,’ The Architects’ Journal, 05 October 2016, Pp. 20-25.
Foster, N. 2016, ‘Designing Maggie’s Manchester,’ Maggie’s, viewed February 2017, < https://www.maggiescentres.org/about-maggies/news-and-publications/latest-news/designing-maggies-manchester/>
2003. ‘Made for Maggie,’ Building Design, 3 October 2003, Pp. 16-32.