Architect’s bedside vision | Latest news

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A black and white image of Northwick Park being built in the late 1960s.

Architect’s bedside vision

An architect who drew inspiration from avant-garde music and ballet created his own symphony in concrete in the shape of Northwick Park Hospital.

John Weeks, whose early work included housing that mimicked the colour and shape of cows in the surrounding landscape, came up with his design while bedridden with flu.

The ‘graceful twinkly figure’ decided he wanted to be an architect at the tender age of 14 and, as a young man, house-shared with a group of fellow architects’ instrumental in helping rebuild Britain after World War Two.

He later joined a special team - the forerunner of what would later become the Nuffield Trust - whose mission included improving health care.

The team, which included architects, statisticians and a nurse, developed several experimental wards, a twin operating suite, and health centre. 

Their early successes laid the foundations for a new generation of large municipal hospitals including Northwick Park which opened in 1970.

Weeks described it as ‘indeterminate architecture’ where a core design could be added to, adapted and built upon to meet growing demands. 

The core at Northwick Park was its entrance and principal routes centred around the ‘street’ or main corridor that still exists today. 

It was feted in its day as a striking example of modern architecture but Northwick Park Hospital was voted the ugliest building in Harrow last year in a London-wide poll of the capital’s least attractive buildings.

London Facebook users were asked about their least favourite buildings in the capital. 

It was up against some concrete corkers including ‘Building A’ in Lewisham whose previous pedigree included being shortlisted for the Carbuncle Cup, the ‘Electric Razor’ in Southwark, and Wandsworth Coda building which one resident described as ‘looking like a chest of drawer in a teenager’s bedroom.’

It is worth pointing out that the hospital is in Brent, not Harrow.

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