October 15, 2019
It is with great sadness we heard of Charles Jencks’ passing. He touched our practice over its lifetime in many ways and we could say set a benchmark for our belief in continual thoughtful creative practice.
It is almost impossible to sum up Charles contribution to theory and practice. Charles would more than anyone have been aware of the debt we owe to the 19th century ‘plant hunters’ who brought back from South east Asia many of the exotic species that filled the great gardens. Charles was a hunter too, a ‘creativity hunter’. He criss-crossed the globe in search of architectural and landscape originality first as a writer and architectural theorist and then as a practitioner of of remarkable, mind blowing, epic, landscape gardens including his own at Portrak.
This remarkable blend of thinker and do-er touched us first in his brilliant read for architectural students, ‘Modern Movements in Architecture’ a vivid history imbued with the spirit of a quest. Perhaps there it can be found the hint, that it is not enough to think and reflect on achievements but it is a priority to imagine futures. His subsequent avalanche of books on ‘postmodernism’ amplified the zeal of his ‘creative search’.
The Maggie’s Centre’s movement is a legacy of that duality of thinking and doing. That is in accepting and understanding what cancer sufferers are going through we can create a place of hope for them and their families and friends. His reasoning was that space and enclosure was an essential part of the setting for empathy we need as human beings in difficult times. The outcome was a truly remarkable collection of pavilions across the country provoking the best architectural minds to shelter the inspiring work of caring volunteers for users. In no small way this idea of the vital link between space and health spurred on design improvements to the provision of health buildings generally in the last twenty years.
We as a practice were touched by his creative provocations, and indeed built two Maggie’s pavilions with him. The first on the edge of Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow and then in Inverness at Raigmore hospital. It was in the latter that building as shelter and his garden of spiralling path mounds created a synthesis of indoor and outdoor unity. It is however in a small unbuilt pavilion project at the Crawick Multiverse, that Charles asked us to help on for the Duke of Buccleuch, that his life and meaning might for us find a kind of summation.
That garden is a model of the Universe(s) and our place in it, upon which he spent much of his later years reflecting upon. The requirement was for a little pavilion for school groups and visitors to explore the gardens ideas. There is no architectural representation possible to encapsulate the vastness of Charles’s idea, indeed his ideas in general. So the solution was to model his famous ‘hat’, the shelter for his mind. The result, a pavilion in which we could for a moment share the mind of this astonishingly vibrant, vivid champion of the priority to continuously nurture and celebrate the power of ideas.
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