Lubetkin’s health centre anticipated with uncanny accuracy the founding spirit of the NHS – and that can’t be lost
On Thursday (29 January) Islington Primary Care Trust (PCT) confirmed its decision to close Berthold Lubetkin’s Finsbury Health Centre and sell the building. Opened in 1938, this Grade I-listed centre is the most complete synthesis of Lubetkin’s architectural philosophy and social agenda.
Is the sale of any real concern? The NHS is lumbered with far too many old sites, with only 50 per cent of its estate fit for purpose. Islington PCT claims that the costs of converting this centre are prohibitively high and will divert money from providing healthcare to preserving an old building. They are confident that, safe in its Grade I listing, the centre will refurbished by its new owner, who will almost certainly take greater care and pride in it than Islington PCT and its predecessors. So why is opposing its closure so important?
The centre, despite being over 70 years old, is as relevant today as it was in 1938, when it anticipated with uncanny accuracy the founding spirit of the NHS. The generosity of its architecture is uncontaminated by the culture of austerity and narrow functionality that has condemned so many healthcare buildings to failure. It recognised that public health is as important as clinical repair and that social amenity is an essential component in such a building.