Joy of Living @ Somerset House

Joy of Living @ Somerset House

The design community is pitching in again on behalf of Maggie’s Centres in Joy of Living a fund-raising project that was organized by Max Fraser, the design writer and editor/publisher of the London Design Guide.

Fraser, who lost his mother to cancer. Max has recruited an A-list of more than 100 established and young designers — among them Tord Boontje, Tom Dixon, Terence Conran, Martino Gamper, Giles Miller, John Pawson, Hannah Martin, Michael Marriott and Moritz Waldemeyer — to create an artwork with a single sheet of A4 graph paper.

The fluid brief allows for a maximum of expression and the use of graph paper is evocative of the beginning of the design process, and Max hopes that the choice of this simple medium will trigger a breadth of responses. The graph paper can be used in any manner by the designer. Each designer will also supply a short text on the inspiration for their finished, signed piece. The works will be sold for 250 pounds each. The catch is that the identity of each piece’s author will remain secret until the piece is purchased, to encourage people to buy what speaks to them emotionally, rather than by name.


Online video magazine – Crane TV – has made a short film about the Joy of Living charity exhibition ( click on this photo to see )

Great Arch lobby at Somerset House, Strand, London

15 – 21 March 2011  /   10am – 6pm daily

To see all of designer’s submitted art works then please continue here – see how many designers you can match to the artworks  ( good luck)


The project aims to raise £50,000 for Maggie’s, a charity that helps people to build a life beyond cancer, helping to manage the impact of a diagnosis of cancer and to live with hope and determination

£1000 will be awarded to the designer who best responds to the Joy of Living brief, as selected by a confirmed jury comprising Claire Catterall (Curator, Somerset House), Marcus Fairs (Editor, Dezeen), Max Fraser, Charles Jencks, (Co-founder of Maggie’s) and Lynda Relph-Knight (Editor, Design Week).  

 A further £500 award will be given to the designer of the most popular artwork, as chosen by a public vote.

Which artwork do you think is the best ?     Who was the designer of it  ?


Designers :

  • Michael Anastassiades
  • Richard Ardagh
  • Shin Azumi
  • Tomoko Azumi
  • Barber Osgerby
  • Johanna Basford
  • Sebastian Bergne
  • Marc Boase
  • Tord Boontje
  • Jason Bruges
  • Ed Carpenter
  • Naomi Cleaver
  • Paul Cocksedge
  • Committee
  • Terence Conran
  • Peter Crawley
  • Darkroom
  • Anthony Dickens
  • Tom Dixon
  • Ella Doran
  • Alan Dye
  • Daniel Eatock
  • Michael Eden
  • Robin Farquhar
  • Paul Finn
  • Annabel Fraser
  • Fredrikson Stallard
  • Martino Gamper
  • Thore Garbers
  • Neil Gillespie
  • Alistair Hall
  • Jon Harrison
  • Simon Hasan
  • Stuart Haygarth
  • Jaime Hayon & Nienke Klunder
  • Sam Hecht
  • Simon Heijdens
  • Mark Holmes
  • Benjamin Hubert
  • Sam Jacob
  • Jam Design
  • Sam Johnson
  • André Klauser
  • Max Lamb
  • Amos Marchant
  • Peter Marigold
  • Michael Marriott
  • Hannah Martin
  • Beau Mcclellan
  • Giles Miller
  • Helen Amy Murray
  • Gareth Neal
  • Brodie Neill
  • New Future Graphic
  • Nous Vous
  • John Pawson
  • Luke Pearson
  • Simon Pengelly
  • Laura Perryman
  • Monica Piatkowski
  • Russell Pinch
  • Steve Price
  • Raw Edges
  • Rob Ryan
  • Ismini Samanidou & Gary Allson
  • Michael Sodeau
  • Rodrigo Solorzano
  • Cathy Spooner
  • Andrew Stafford
  • Richard Sweeney
  • Alexander Taylor
  • Timorous Beasties
  • Nina Tolstrup
  • Troika
  • Twocreate
  • Viable London
  • Moritz Waldemeyer
  • Peter Wall
  • William Warren
  • Chris Wilkinson
  • Donna Wilson
  • Wokmedia
  • Michael Wolfson
  • Voon Wong & Benson Saw
  • Terence Woodgate
  • Richard Woods
  • Sebastian Wrong
  • Helen Yardley
  • Dan Ziglam

Maggie’s Cancer Centres

Before she died of breast cancer in 1995 at the age of 53, the garden designer and connoisseur Maggie Keswick Jencks helped lay the groundwork for a network of cancer care centers, now called Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, that put the patient first. Designed by architects like Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Richard Rogers, the centers (which are mostly in the U.K.) offer free medical and psychological support in settings that are the antithesis of most hospitals’ cold and confusing institutional interiors.

“Maggie’s founder, Maggie Keswick Jencks, always stressed the importance of creating a welcoming, calm, yet uplifting environment in our centres,” said Laura Lee, Chief Executive of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. “We have engaged with leading architects to design our existing centres, and our mission is to build more across the UK with the generous support of projects like this. Good design is core to our beliefs so it makes perfect sense to partner with the design industry on a project of this kind.”

Maggie’s creates uplifting spaces that are resolutely non-institutional. Like Lubetkin, who designed the ground-breaking Finsbury Health Centre in London in 1938, Maggie’s believes that “Nothing is too good for ordinary people”; that beautiful surroundings should not be the preserve of the privileged.

The detailed brief they provide to architects is centred on the needs of the people who visit the centres, but it also allows broad creative scope and artistic interpretation. Through this, Maggie’s has succeeded in creating a network of centres that are exquisitely idiosyncratic in their design but utterly consistent in the community of care they create for people affected by cancer.

The network was initiated by and is named after Maggie Keswick Jencks. Together with her husband – the renowned architectural writer and critic Charles – Jencks believed that architecture could truly make a difference to our health, and worked to transform this powerful concept into reality. Making a mark not only in health but also in terms of architecture, and with the first one built in 1996, the Centres have since engaged some of the world’s most prominent architects to create buildings all around Britain; from Frank Gehry to Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Richard Rogers – the list is truly star-studded

The Maggie’s Centres may be petite but they have not only provided comfort and a suitable inspiring and caring architectural environment for their patients over 15 years; they have also been a welcoming canvas for experimentation for the architects involved, creating a series of small but perfectly formed landmarks for Britain.

1996 The first Maggie’s centre, designed by Richard Murphy, opens in Edinburgh, on the site where Maggie was diagnosed. Mike Dixon, a surgeon at the hospital said: “We have good doctors… but Maggie’s is the jewel in the crown of what we do here.”

2002 Maggie’s Glasgow opens in a red brick gatehouse beside Kelvingrove Park, redesigned and converted by Page\Park. David Page brought Maggie’s ethos of informality and flow to life with rooms that “break through at the back, out towards the landscape and park”.

2003 Bob Geldof opens the Dundee centre, designed by Frank Gehry. A tall cylindrical space with an observation point at the top is surrounded by a series of curving planes.

2005 Maggie’s Highlands opens, designed by Page\Park with Charles Jencks. The spiralling building, which Jencks describes as a “small city”, is crowned by bright green copper.

2006 Gordon Brown opens Maggie’s Fife, designed by Zaha Hadid. Its dark surface, with silicon carbide grit, creates a glistening, ethereal appearance.

2008 The London centre, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, opens. “I am delighted Maggie’s London is opening…” says Rogers. “There is a long history linking well-designed buildings and space with healing.”

2010 Of his new centre in Cheltenham, Sir Richard MacCormac says: “A few minutes away from the hospital but psychologically nowhere near, it is very much its own place.”

In the Pipeline: Fundraising is under way to realise more centres in the UK and abroad – Maggie’s Oxford, designed by Wilkinson Eyre, will nestle in the woods next to the Oxford Radcliffe hospitals. The structure weaves together a number of layers, and includes terraces and outside spaces among the trees. Maggie’s South West Wales, designed by Kisho Kurokawa. Kurokawa died in 2007, so architects Thore Garbers and Wendy James took on the project. Maggie’s Lanarkshire, designed by Neil Gillespie. Gartnavel (Glasgow) by Rem Koolhaas of Office of Metropolitan Architecture; Nottingham by Piers Gough of CZWG Architects with interior design by Sir Paul Smith; North East by Ted Cullinan of Edward Cullinan Architects; and the Lanarkshire center by Neil Gillespie of Reiach and HallHong Kong, designed by Frank Gehry, and Maggie’s Barcelona. A Catalan team based in Barcelona has approached Maggie’s UK to create a similar network of centres across Spain.

Interview ::  Max Fraser

March 6th, 2011   by design geek

How did you first get involved with Maggie’s?

Ever since my mother died of cancer in late 2008, I’ve wanted to contribute in some way to mankind’s fight against the disease. I am aware that continued medical research is going to eventually find us a cure but I believe it’s up to governments and pharmaceutical companies to fund this. In real terms, however, there are thousands of people suffering from cancer in one form or other, and I wanted to raise money to support a charity that is doing something for these people – right here, right now. I want the results of our fundraising to have really tangible benefits.

I was introduced to the work of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres by a friend. They offer strong emotional support to cancer patients and those people surrounding them. Something that I observed throughout my mother’s illness was the importance of a calm environment when recovering from the traumatic treatment. Maggie’s fully understand this too. Patients need to maintain a positive attitude and a strong support network. Emotionally, the disease can take you to some pretty dark places, and I witnessed that it is incredibly lonely and terrifying to be faced with the constant possibility of death. The treatment process is rife with highs and lows for the patient as well as the family and friends affected.

Maggie’s Centres are designed by great architects on the grounds of cancer specialist hospitals. These centres offer support and advice to countless cancer sufferers and their families. Today. Right now. The design of their spaces is welcoming, calm and uplifting.

This relates very closely to my professional world; I use media to communicate the strengths of great design. Design is not about ‘pretty stuff’ – it has the power to do so much more. It can make a huge difference to our emotional state and, I believe, has the power to make our lives better.

So, the marriage of my fundraising aims for cancer with my inherent believes and professional output all seemed to marry perfectly when I encountered Maggie’s.

How did you come up with the idea of asking top designers to create something to represent the Joy of Living from graph paper?

Before I had decided which charity to support or even decided on a brief to the designers, I knew I wanted to involve graph paper. In 2009, I wrote and published a book called London Design Guide and we used graph paper on the cover design. The response from designers was really positive – graph paper seems to trigger a fond nostalgia for designers as it reminds them of the early days of drafting before computers took over. I like the idea that designers might pick up a pencil, pen, brush, whatever and create an artwork that couldn’t be repeated and that would result in something of unique value. Having received the artworks, I am pleased to say this has been achieved.

Logistically, the A4 paper is easy to send to the designers, it’s not expensive, and it’s a manageable sized artwork for most people’s walls at home.

I knew I wanted my brief to the designers to be upbeat and hopeful (a sort of celebration of life) so asking them to represent the Joy of Living seemed perfect and also very open to varied responses.

What’s been the best part of being involved with this project so far?

As the project has evolved, there have been many ‘best parts.’ Working with great partners who are willingly giving their time to this project has been amazing. Having so many top designers responding to the brief and generously submitting an artwork has been humbling. For me, being able to work on something with different motivations and goals has been fulfilling and refreshing.

But ultimately, the best part will be when we have sold out of artworks, received numerous donations, and I can write a cheque to Maggie’s for £50,000, which is our fundraising target. With that money, I know that Maggie’s will make a real difference to people’s lives – that’s the best part of all.

What’s been the hardest part of making all this happen?

As with any voluntary activity, it is sometimes difficult to find the time to give it the attention it needs around the demands of my own life and profession. From the start, I have been conscious of the demands on my project partners, but they have all surprised me and been incredibly efficient and generous with their time.

It has been a challenge to find a suitable venue to exhibit the artworks as I was quite specific with my criteria. I wanted a central London location, a professional gallery environment, and ideally the neutrality of an institutional venue. I’m delighted that I have achieved all of these with Somerset House.

What impact do you hope the exhibition at Somerset House will have on those who visit it?

I hope it will have enough impact that people will open their wallets and buy an artwork or two, or make a donation! I hope that it will make people reflect upon those that they know who have been or are affected by cancer (directly or indirectly). I hope it will trigger people to consider the fragility of life, and re-calibrate their priorities when it comes to where they spend their time and money. I hope it may inspire people to also stage their own fundraising activity for a cause that is close to them.

Above all, I hope it will raise the profile and awareness of Maggie’s in people’s minds. They provide a crucial service that will most certainly provide help and assistance for some of us in the future.

How easy was it to get the designers on board?

For the first time in my profession, I can wholeheartedly say that my primary motivation for this project is to make as much money as possible for Maggie’s – not for me, the artist, or any agents or galleries. It is as simple as that.

However, I am also aware that the success of this project is centred on desirability. In order to part with their cash, people must really want to own the artworks so I knew it was important to ask top talents to create them.

Fortunately, in the time that I have worked in the design industry, I have built up relationships with amazing talents and I felt it was appropriate to take advantage of these contacts for this particular project. The designers have responded incredibly well to the project and have been incredibly generous with their time and energy, for which I am very grateful.

Which is your favourite artwork?

I have many, each one for a different reason, but I don’t want people to be influenced by my favourites – I want people to simply buy the artwork that they love. That is why I have opted to price them equally (all at £250) and keep the designer’s name hidden. Then, the decision is informed by one’s own passion and desire, without any other external (and quite frankly, frivolous) criteria.


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