Maggie's Centre, Highlands

Charles Jencks: the landscape designer behind Maggie’s Centre and The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

Maggie's Centre co-founder Charles Jencks, known for his arresting gardens, has died at the age of 80

Architectural historian and landscape designer Charles Jencks published more than 30 books on cosmic science and put his theories into practice in several gardens he designed. One of the most striking of these was The Garden of Cosmic Speculation at his and his wife’s family home in Portrack, Dumfriesshire. After his wife, Maggie Keswick, died of cancer, he helped co-found the Maggie’s Cancer Care centres and was responsible for the garden design of the Highlands Centre, alongside David Page, who designed the building.

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Juergen Teller's studio garden
© Andrew Montgomery

With reference to the designs at Highlands, Jencks said: “The cell is the unit of life: dynamic, really exciting, a factory of life itself, and I thought it was time to celebrate the cell.”

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation was finished in 2003 and is a series of twenty areas including DNA garden, Quark Walk, Fractal terrace and Comet Bridge, worked on by Jencks, his wife and scientists. It combines both aesthetic and edible planting and celebrates nature and modern science.

Maggie’s Centre Chief Executive Dame Laura Lee said:  “It’s very hard to come to terms with Charles not being here as he has been such a pivotal part in developing Maggie’s vision for a different type of cancer care and turning that vision into a reality. Over the last 23 years his passion, drive and imagination meant that leading architects from across the world came to build these extraordinary centres; places which have benefitted thousands of people with cancer both in the UK and abroad.

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“I know Charles will be remembered for his many talents, but for me personally his legacy lies in the contribution he has made to ensuring people living with cancer, and those close to them, have the best possible support. Maggie’s would not be the organisation it is today without his tenacity, dedication and charisma. He will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family.”