In a photo essay for Slate, Witold Rybczynski asks this very question. The article focuses on Maggie’s Centres, a series of cancer wards in the UK that provide non-medical care to patients as well as caregivers in less institutional environs. Maggie’s Centres were started by noted architectural critic Charles Jencks and his wife, Maggie Keswick Jencks, in 1995 when Maggie was dying of breast cancer and the couple realized that the hospital environment neatively affected both patients and families. With his connections to the architectural world, Jenck has been able to commision some of the best-known names in the field to design these aesthetically pleasing care centers. Work has just started on the first London Centre, a colorful, spacious, and open additon to Charing Cross Hospital, designed by Richard Rogers.
One lesson of Maggie’s Centres is that architectural talent is too precious to be confined to cultural monuments and – in Lord Rogers’ case – high-end office buildings. It’s nice that art museums and corporations have great architecture, but it would be nicer – and much more valuable for most of us – if hospitals had it, too.