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idea the UK’s had) is so necessarily intangible, it feels more and more important to focus on concrete examples of success. At least, in the architecture world, that is something we are not short of.


When it comes to concrete, we have a fantastic example of a futuristic healthcare project on the cover of this issue, which is exactly the right kind of tonic currently to remind us of what is possible in the real world. At a modest £125m, the new Proton Beam Therapy Centre at the Christie Hospital in Manchester provides a new hope for patients with complex cancers, because it can treat tumours in a way that avoids the harmful side effects of traditional radiation therapy.

While it appears a relatively unassuming building from the exterior, the real trick that architects HKS have pulled off, as well as creating the first completed NHS unit on this scale, is to bring a sense of openness and nature to what is, to a large extent, a concrete bunker. The linear accelerator that fires protons to the individual patient ‘gantries’ requires so much concrete that the rear of the building is dominated by the material, from the ground floor upwards. However, the front is open and welcoming, enabling patients undergoing weeks of this treatment to feel a semblance of normality, as well as sociability, in a manner emulating the famous Maggie’s Centres now dotted all over the UK. The difference here is that this building is a giant housing for pioneering high-tech equipment, cleverly combined with a human-centred facility.

I find healthcare projects particularly inspiring – when they manage to deliver environments which nourish the soul as well as treat the ailment in a way that works for clinicians – because the odds are stacked against them, particularly in the NHS. With money being scarce, there are many ways in which budgets can be squeezed, and quality lost, so architects deserve special praise for achieving design that doesn’t compromise in these settings.

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That said, the unit at The Christie was not particularly expensive by modern healthcare standards, like its sister project, nearing completion at the University College London Hospitals. That project – designed by Edward Williams Architects and Scott Tallon Walker, is also much more complex, extending several stories underground, and we look forward to seeing how it turns out in 2020.

Healthcare projects do not have to be filled with cutting-edge equipment to be successful however. The Bromley- by-Bow Health Centre in east London is widely lauded not because of its evolving set of buildings, but how it represents a genuine social enterprise in the community, and puts aspects like art therapy at the centre of its services. This sort of thing is what makes healthcare special, and this rubs off on architects who embrace it.

James Parker Editor


ON THE COVER... The first large ‘high energy’ NHS proton beam therapy centre has been completed, at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester

PROTON BEAM THERAPY CENTRE, MANCHESTER How HKS brought a human-centred design to The Christie Hospital’s pioneering NHS proton beam therapy centre for treating complex cancers

MUCH WENLOCK SOCIAL HOUSING A Passivhaus scheme which worked with difficult Shropshire terrain

Cover image © The Christie For the full report on this project, go to page 35

s the Brexit quagmire reaches almost farcically depressing depths, it’s very tempting to turn one’s back entirely on the mess and focus on something indisputably positive. Also, given that the world of speculation (whether it’s about empty shelves and huge job losses, or that leaving the EU is the greatest



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