Landmarks: Finsbury Health Centre

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The Independent Culture
Hiding behind Exmouth Market in Finsbury is a cream-tiled, heavily glazed building that crouches back from the pavement and immediately proclaims itself as special. This is the Finsbury Health Centre which opened in 1938 and was designed by the Russian emigre architect Lubetkin and his team at Tecton. It was built in an area of considerable social and physical depravation and it was intended to put Finsbury on the map. It was conceived as a public statement by the very poor local authority, a 'megaphone for health'. It was a building that used avant-garde design to proclaim a new approach to healthcare.

It is H-shaped in plan with two-storey side wings and a single-storey entrance hall. The wings of the H are made out of what was then a fairly revolutionary technique of framed glass panels and the entrance hall is a great curving wall of glass blocks which you can't see through but which give an impressive reflection of the surrounding area.

Inside there is this wonderful atmosphere of light, the ground floor entrance hall is very spacious and when you get into one of the wings you find yourself in a corridor that tapers the further along you go. So immediately you feel you are in a special place. You feel 'someone's really thought about this'.

There are not many buildings from the Thirties that give me a real lift, but this is one of them: it reminds me of the challenge of modernism. The plan is extremely flexible; it's a beautiful building that's human-scaled and it makes you feel good.

Robin Nicholson is a director with Edward Cullinan Architects

(Photograph omitted)

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