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Charles Jencks and the Architecture of Compassion

The celebrated architectural theorist, who died this week, left a down-to-earth legacy: thoughtfully designed buildings and landscapes for people with cancer.
Charles Jencks in 2011 in front of the Maggie's Centre in Swansea, Wales, designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa.
Charles Jencks in 2011 in front of the Maggie's Centre in Swansea, Wales, designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa.South Wales Evening Post

The architecture writer and landscape designer Charles Jencks, who died earlier this week aged 80, was one of those rare theorists who put their ideas into concrete action. Born in Baltimore in 1939, the U.K.-based writer became an influential early advocate for Postmodernism in architecture, as well as a creator of remarkable, haunting landscapes that have already been acknowledged as masterpieces.

Perhaps his most meaningful legacy, however, is something both more workaday and more remarkable. Jencks, along with his second wife, the writer and garden designer Margaret Keswick-Jencks, founded a still-growing chain of support centers for cancer patients, which draw on the healing properties of good architecture.