Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Rocking the foundations of hospital architecture

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 16 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1599
  1. Edwin Heathcote, architect and architecture and design critic for the Financial Times

Maggie Jencks’ spatial experience of cancer was poor. Just as for hundreds of thousands of others, the diagnosis of the cancer that would eventually kill her was revealed to her in a grim, strip lit room, sitting on plastic chairs amid the bustle and ennui of a general hospital. She became convinced that it didn’t have to be this way, and, together with her husband, architecture critic and designer Charles Jencks, she founded the first of what would become Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. This was an intimate, domestically scaled refuge in a stable block in the grounds of Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital, a place for patients with cancer and their relatives to escape the relentless medicalised glare of the hospital building, to remove themselves to a humane setting of care, empathy, and humanity.

Maggie Jencks died in 1995, but Maggie’s Centres have flourished and become a much studied and emulated model of a new type of hybrid medical building, one that is not a clinical centre but that nevertheless has a specialist nurse constantly available; one that is not institutional yet is …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription