A contemporary healthcare space. We have an emergent project at Edinburgh on therapeutic space, in the knowledge that healthcare – and mental health care – are boom areas in developed economies, and that ‘therapy’ is an ever more pervasive concept. Maggie’s is a likely case study. Historical dimensions to the problem will be covered too.


Today  (07/11/12) we made a visit to the original Maggie’s Centre, situated on the grounds of Edinburgh’s Western General hospital. Bult by Edinburgh-based Richard Murphy in 1994, in response to a brief provided by Maggie Jencks, it provides an informal drop-in centre for cancer sufferers, and their families, with therapeutic services, health advice, and a kitchen. Between us we knew three of the other Maggie’s: Glasgow, Kirkaldy and Dundee, and we talked to therapists who knew the rest. The architecture of the centres varies a good deal: this one a Victorian stable block as if built by Pippi Longstocking, Dundee (Frank Gehry) is a fairytale gingerbread house, Kircaldy (Zaha Hadid) a grounded stealth bomber. In the Edinburgh case, the starting point, the  Victorian block, has been opened out at ground level with a mezzanine inserted above, leading to alcoves at each end. An eccentric, but well-stocked library fills the central stair…

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About Richard J Williams

Professor of contemporary visual cultures and head of history of art at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Books on cities include 'The Anxious City' (Routledge, 2004), 'Brazil' (Reaktion 2009), 'Regenerating Culture and Society' (edited with Jonathan Harris, LUP 2010), and 'Sex and Buildings' (Reaktion, 2013). Writing a new book about Reyner Banham.

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