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Caithness News Bulletins July 2003
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|Frank Gehry Web Site||Guggenheim Bilbao Photos|
New Maggie Cancer Centre, Dundee
- First Frank O Gehry Building In UK
Now Gehry has designed his first ever building for the UK. Maggie's Centre, a cancer caring centre working with Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, is due to open its doors to the public in September. With its pleated roof, its curving walls and lookout tower, Dundee's new Maggie's Centre is different from any other building the city has ever seen. But then it is unique, created by Gehry in honour of a much-loved friend.
In designing this building for Dundee, Gehry is providing his own personal tribute to Maggie Keswick Jencks, who lost her battle against breast cancer in 1995. The tower is representative of a lighthouse, and from its' picture window you can see all across the Tay estuary. The lighthouse concept reveals Gehry's belief that Maggie's Centre must shine like a beacon to other parts of the country, providing patient centred information to all those who require it. The philosophy behind the Maggie's Centres is that your immediate environment affects your wellbeing; and so Gehry has designed a building with the intention of aiding recovery. It does this by providing a warm and friendly environment with pools of light; space to be alone with your thoughts, or in a communal area to share anxieties. Gehry's building encourages optimism and a positive outlook.
This seems a world away from the cardboard and sticky tape models that Gehry and his team create in Los Angeles. Terry Wolsey, of video production company, Eyeline Media, recently traveled with a film crew to Santa Monica to interview him. In his new airy studios she was not surprised to discover that he works quite differently from most architects. The trademark Gehry scribbles create the initial design, and then the structural engineers work with the very latest in computer technology to ascertain how the structure can feasibly be supported. Gehry's use of unusual materials marks his work; the Guggenheim in Bilbao has a titanium roof, the roof of this Maggie's Centre is stainless steel, built to reflect clouds scurrying across the Dundee skyline. Local architect Fred Stephen has been involved from the start. According to Fred if he had submitted the plans for a similar building himself he would have no doubt it wouldn't have passed the planning stage. But this is Gehry, and Gehry doesn't conform to planning rules and regulations.
The significance of Gehry's first UK building is not lost on Dundee, The Guggenheim transformed Bilbao into a city of international importance, and Dundonians are hopeful that Gehry's Maggie's Centre will place their city on the architectural map. Choosing Dundee for Gehry's first ever UK location means the city can celebrate it's new status as a design capital; the days of jam, jute and journalism have now been superceded by games technology and advanced medical research.
According to Gehry it is a magical site, overlooking, as it does, the beautiful Tay estuary. He has donated his services for free, and the finance to create the building has come from charitable donations and fund raising locally. Gehry hopes that those using the building will find it comforting, and special. As he told Terry Wolsey during their interview "They have been given a gift, which is by no measure enough to cancel their anxieties, but it's a bit of love from outer space. I hope the architecture won't override the purpose of the building, but complement it and take it to a higher plane of comfort and beauty."
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