Maggie’s Centres: A Blueprint for Cancer Care to open at the Heinz Architectural Center

Opening September 13, 2014 at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s (CMOA) Heinz Architectural Center in Pittsburgh, Maggie’s Centres: A Blueprint for Cancer Care offers a look into how some of the world’s most influential architects – Frank Gehry, Piers Gough, Steven Holl, Rem Koolhaas and Richard Rogers – have addressed the everyday challenges of people undergoing treatment for cancer.

The exhibition, organized by the New York School of Interior Design, and curated for CMOA by Raymund Ryan, curator of architecture, showcases the remarkable family of health-care buildings known as Maggie’s Centres. These outstanding works of integrated architectural design are situated across the United Kingdom. At Maggie’s Centres, cancer care is facilitated in buildings that are bright and unorthodox; that prioritize essential human needs of social gathering and private contemplation; and that introduce gardens into the daily lives of patients.

Each Centre signals through its individual design a critical departure from what typical health-care facilities look like, and most importantly, what those buildings feel like. This focused concern for vanguard design in union with empathy and the empowerment of patients stems from founder Maggie Keswick Jencks’s insistence that patients should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying.”

Raised in Scotland and Hong Kong, Maggie Keswick Jencks (1941–1995) was the author of The Chinese Garden: History, Art, and Architecture (1978). While being treated for cancer at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, she became acutely aware of the needs of cancer patients. She spotted the potential of a stable on the hospital grounds, which was renovated as the first Centre. Maggie’s husband Charles Jencks, a leading architectural writer and landscape designer, was a co-founder and remains a trustee of Maggie’s Centres.

As health care in the United States undergoes unprecedented levels of scrutiny over issues of cost, delivery, best practices and outcomes, Maggie’s Centres: A Blueprint for Cancer Care offers a fascinating glimpse into the value of supplementary approaches to medical care. How can a thorough consideration of caring for the full patient address the challenges of treating cancer? In contrast to the impersonal atmosphere of many health-care facilities, these unique structures bear the stamp of some of today’s most renowned architects, working in close collaboration with contemporary landscape designers. To date, 16 Centres have been constructed, while a further six are in development.

The exhibition includes models, photographs, original drawings and videos relating to five of the Centres, those designed by teams led by Gehry, Gough, Holl, Koolhaas and Rogers. The installation also includes portraits of Maggie’s Centre alumni by photographer Mary McCartney, daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney, together with brief personal accounts of their experiences. Reflecting the innovative yet informal spirit of each Centre, the installation at the Heinz Architectural Center is furnished with household furniture from UK-based Orla Kiely House, inviting the museum visitor to relax, enjoy and engage with the exhibition.

Five Maggie’s Centres are explored in the exhibition: Maggie’s Dundee at Nineswells Hospital in Dundee, Scotland by architect Frank Gehry and landscape designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd; Maggie’s Gartnavel at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland by architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA and landscape designer Lily Jencks; Maggie’s West London at Charing Cross Hospital in London, England by architect Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and landscape designer Dan Pearson; Maggie’s Nottingham at Nottingham City Hospital in Nottingham, England by architect Piers Gough of CZWG Architects and landscape architect Envert Studio; and Maggie’s Barts at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, England by architect Steven Holl.

The exhibition runs from September 13, 2014–January 5, 2015.

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