Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A quick visit to A & E

click photo to enlarge
On a recent brief evening visit to the nearest Accident and Emergency department at Boston's Pilgrim Hospital, I grabbed a quick photograph of the building with my pocket camera. And, as I sat in the waiting area I fell to thinking about the such establishments, especially those built in the 1960s and 1970s.

Pevsner records that the design for Pilgrim Hospital was selected in competition in 1961, the winner being the work of the Building Design Partnership. But he also notes that it was built quite differently because of an enlarged site and revised accommodation requirements. The first phase went up in 1967-70 and the second in 1972-74. A third phase was added in 1985-87. From a distance all one sees across the flat Fens is the dominant slab of the 10-storey ward block, but from close by the expanse of single-storey departments becomes evident. What was it about these decades, I wondered, that resulted in hospitals that look like office blocks or Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation? Perhaps it was the wish to depart from the grim Gothic and Italianate edifices of the nineteenth century and the homely "cottage hospital" style of the inter-war years. Maybe the desire was to be forward-looking, modern, scientific and rational. Maybe too, at a psychological level there was the desire to convince the users that here is a building staffed by professionals, another world where all sorts of life-saving and life-enhancing treatments are adminstered, a place where you can put your trust in those who work there. Every profession seeks to amplify the prestige and power that attaches to them, those involved in medicine no less than bankers, and perhaps this too was part of the rationale behind the kind of architecture that can be be seen across the country from Hull to Cardiff to Preston to Ipswich. Or was it simply a following of fashion by the architectural profession?

I took my photograph from the car park. The lighting coming from the remnants of the day and fluorescent bulbs stetched the camera to the limit, resulting in a fairly grainy image. Noise suppression introduced a touch of "water colour effect", but the combination of tree silhouettes, cars, lights and the grid of illuminated windows of the main hospital building produced a shot that doesn't entirely displease me.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 6.3mm (30mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.2
Shutter Speed: 1/8
ISO: 800
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On