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Br J Gen Pract. 2004 October 1; 54(507): 805.
PMCID: PMC1324903

Maggie's Centre, Dundee, Scotland

Architect: Frank Gehry

‘What sort of music is this building’ I asked. ‘Classical’ said Karen MacKinnon, the Information and Support Specialist, ‘calming, but full of energy’. ‘For me’, said Richard Golsworthy, the Head of Psychology, ‘it's Strauss, a symphonic waltz’. And what do patients say about it? ‘Wow’, ‘Beautiful’, ‘Special’. They all looked at ease in this space of support for people with cancer. For my part, I waited to write this, to let the impact of this adventure of a building settle. But it barely mellowed enough to let me know that it was the quality of light that lingered most. And those curves that danced a rhythm for me.

Like the best consultations, this place makes you safe, but throws you off guard enough to let in new possibilities. Some people have reached their emotions within feet of entering. ‘Come in and see things differently’ says Frank Gehry's creation. Its fairytale shape, magic tower, cathedral cascading roof, dance you around with echoes of sacred space. They told me that its predominantly communal spaces catalyse your contact with others, despite our withdrawn selves. Patients reconnect, they said.

Sure, some things might be better changed — maybe that office screen's ambiguous height, and its confusing ‘is-it-a-reception?’ window; maybe those industrial-feel wall lights; maybe that over-angular corner in one of the two one-to-one spaces — but let their character be, because this space of a building sings in tune — with itself, with the nature it lets in everywhere, and with the vulnerable, frightened visitors. Fortunately, it is out of time with the drum beat that dictates the usual, dismal, banal or garish, or discordant spaces we are forced to set our healing in. If there is anyone else left who thinks our outer spaces do not touch our inner spaces — visit this building and see if you can let it help you. A ‘pier’ heads out to the sea beyond, inviting you on your journey. You understood, Maggie. Thank you.

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Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners