Intended for healthcare professionals


Charles Jencks: architectural historian, landscape architect, and co-founder of Maggie’s Centres

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 19 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6592
  1. Rebecca Wallersteiner
  1. London, UK
  1. wallersteiner{at}
Photo credit: Maggie Cancer Care Centres

Charles Jencks, landscape architect, critic, and author of 30 books on architectural history, who co-founded Maggie’s Centres to offer support to people with cancer, has died at his home in London at the age of 80.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, Charles Jencks was the son of composer Gardner Platt Jencks and his wife, Ruth (née DeWitt Pearl). His family had made its fortune from safety deposit boxes. The studious young Jencks was educated at Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, and read English at Harvard, staying on to do a masters in architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in 1965. That year, he came to London on a Fulbright scholarship and took a doctorate in architectural history at University College London under the radical modernist historian Reyner Banham, from whom he said he “learnt much.”

After the news of Jencks’s death, his friend and collaborator, architect Norman Foster, paid tribute, describing him as “a doyen of architectural criticism,” and said that he would always remember him for his “incisive focus and infectious humour” in co-founding the Maggie Cancer Care Centres and for “turning a personal tragedy into an institution that brings so much hope to so many people.”

Maggie’s chief executive, Laura Lee, said, “It’s hard to come to terms with Charles not being here as he has played a pivotal part in developing Maggie’s vision to offer support for people with cancer and turning that vision into a reality. Over the past 23 years, his passion, drive, and imagination meant that leading architects from across the world came to build these extraordinary centres, places that have benefited thousands of people with cancer, both in the UK and abroad. I know Charles will be remembered for his many talents, but for me, …

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