The Architecture of Contemplation
In Conversation With: Laura Lee
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Cause and effect is a rum thing. How far back can we trace an initial cause; how linear, or clear, is the line that we can directly assign to that particular effect, to be linked to that initial action? Circular logic is already circling this note. A visit to the Design Museum in 2016, is the innocuous yet utterly overt beginning of this journey; a seed was planted in my mind, upon discovering Maggie's Cancer Centres, featured in the museum for offering a unique prescription to the diagnosis of cancer: architecture.
Fast-forward six years, and finally the effect takes place. Today I am speaking with Laura Lee, one of the founding members, and CEO of Maggie's, a network of centres that offers social, psychological, and professional support for those diagnosed with cancer, and their families.
Maggie's is eponymously named after Maggie Keswick Jencks, a writer, gardener and designer. who herself was diagnosed with cancer in 1988, and after a series of remissions and returns, passed away in 1995. Maggie, along with her husband Charles Jencks, entered a journey into cancer diagnosis and treatment. They were met with a dehumanising process, which stripped dignity, agency and clarity out of the cancer equation. They both were forward thinkers, intrepid travellers, seekers of cures through landscape and monument.
Maggie decided that cancer care fundamentally had to change. For her, it was clear that, to quote, "above all what matters is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying." Laura was Maggie's oncology nurse at the time, and was there at the inception of the first centre, which opened in 1996. What has since unfurled is an adventure in healing and hope with 30 centres now live, with architects including Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, and Rem Koolhaas having lent their expertise to this hopeful architecture.
Laura for me is the archetypal servant-leader. She is clear on the vision, fully versed in what is at stake for those whose world is turned asunder from a cancer diagnosis, and driven by deep collaboration and mutual respect. The transformative impact of literal architecture infuses this entire conversation, as do the ways in which Laura herself makes time and space for, rest, respite and contemplation.
Without further ado, I bring you Laura Lee.
Produced by Annika Sost
| Maggie's EXPLORE
| The Architecture of Hope: Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres by Charles Jencks BOOK
| A View from the Front Line by Maggie Keswick Jencks ESSAY
| The Cosmic House VISIT
| Social Prescribing LEARN