Flying Through Papworth Hospital

I read that the planning application for the new Papworth Hospital has been approved. It is moving to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, just down the road from the school, where it will operate alongside Addenbrooke’s hospital.

I’ve mentioned Papworth and it’s move to Cambridge before (here), but they have now produced a fly-through video of the new building:

Architects love this sort of thing, the idealised realisation of their designs. You sometimes wonder if they are secretly disappointed by the buildings themselves. Papworth, for instance, will most likely not be filled with happy smiling faces, but fretful, abstracted ones; not peopled by svelte shadows, but bunged up with suffering, shambling flesh-and-blood hominids at the last extremity.

There are similarly any number of photographs of celebrated architects with their models, their faces looming over the top of them like malignant deities (see here, for example, or here). The little human figures used to give a sense of scale to the buildings also lend those buildings a bit of sculptural immobility (as do the shadows in the Papworth video).

Buildings are not experienced as sculptures, needless to say, but as spaces through which we move. And spaces filled with other people, at that. Thus Wilko Johnson, guitarist and founder member of Dr Feelgood, and more latterly cast member of Game of Thrones, who has just been treated for pancreatic cancer at Addenbrooke’s hospital (successfully, thus far), described the hospital as a ‘magical place’, not because of its handling of space and volume, but because of the work of the doctors, surgeons, nurses and cleaners.

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