Last week I had a lovely afternoon with Dr John Ashton CBE Director of Public Health and Dr Robert G MacDonald, RIBA, PFRSA, at 42nd Street Young Persons Centre in Manchester. They are both passionate about Architecture and therapeutic environments.
We met with Vera the CEO, Tess and some of the young people. I found out a few things - the building was described as a sanctuary and the loud bang the large front door makes when it shuts behind you is very good, but there are too many windows! Some people 'tear up' when they come into the building and it feels like a castle.
Robert said to me James Stirling never went back to his buildings once they were finished. I know that compulsion to run very well. I find it incredibly painful too, but I force myself to resist such indulgence. Architecture is so mysterious, the built is always different to the imagined. So I do go back - to learn why its different. Perhaps one day imagination will align with reality. I have had many glimpses, some of them just lasted a few days until the next element of construction went in and others live on as small fragments of (only to me) perfection. Some only lasted seconds, seeing something that wasn't really there.
I went back to the Wildflower Centre a couple of weeks ago. It was shut and I only got to walk around the perimeter. I was shocked by its power. For the first time I could see it for what it really is, without my imaginary version filtering my perception. It's taken thirteen years! It's still not what I imagined, it has its own expression. Seeing it sitting there living its own life made me feel like I'd been a disapproving / disappointed father all these years, projecting my dream of what I thought it should be. Thankfully I am blissfully free of such demands on my real children. They are infinitely more beautiful than anything I could have thought up.