By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

In memoriam: Howard Goodman 1928 - 1999

From 1951 to 1981, the architectural environment of the uk was dominated by local and central government offices, particularly in the fields of education, housing and health. Howard Goodman occupied a position in the field of health comparable in importance to that of Stirrat Johnson- Marshall, Robert Mathew, Kenneth Cambell, Fred Pooley and others in their respective fields.

Education, with the massive demand for new schools combining with new ideas on forms of teaching, led the field. The building programme was centrally funded and the need for cost control, economy and speed in meeting this demand meant there would be a high return on investment in r&d work that produced a prototype which could be used as a basis for a production run. The characteristic outputs of this process were bulletins describing an educational (service) brief, the space and cost standards required to meet it, technological innovation in construction, and the prototype itself. These prototypes were produced in collaboration with local education authorities, selected for their forward thinking in education and the quality of their architecture departments. A similar process eventually developed in housing, and the London County Council was large enough to develop a very high level of expertise in all of the fields.

Health building was a comparative latecomer to the new methodology. The client body - medical and nursing professionals - were conservative by nature and training, and had suffered a considerable culture shock in the creation of the nhs in 1947. Each of the 17 regional hospital boards that had been established was large enough to have developed strong individual and local power bases, the teaching hospitals were largely autonomous and capital expenditure had been relatively small. (Even at its eventual peak it never exceeded 4 per cent of total hospital spend.)

In 1958, Tatton Brown was appointed chief architect of the Ministry of Health (later dhss). He recruited Howard Goodman, among others, to supplement the small staff that he had inherited. Tatton Brown, although very familiar with school methods, knew little of health buildings. Goodman, by contrast, has spent 16 of his 32 years practising in that field. It was a happy conjunction of talents and characters.

The problem with hospital-building in 1960 was that each was

designed as a one-off project. The wheel was constantly re-invented without reference to previous examples, even inside the region. The result was a gestation period of around 11 years with consequent built-in obsolescence, and nearly always a massive time and cost over-run even with the loosely drafted budgets then current.

The initial solution was a crash programme of building bulletins, one per hospital department. These codified existing good practice in standards of space and equipment, and thus formed the basis for cost limits. The size and cost of a hospital could for the first time be related to its functional content.

In support of this work Howard initiated a series of development projects - which included an out-patient department at Walton Hospital, Liverpool, planned with the existing cost limits and incorporating research done under the auspices of the Nuffield Trust, and the first purpose-built day hospital with a twin theatre suite. Subsequent major development projects included Greenwich District General Hospital (1971) in which a wide range of ideas was tested, and St Mary's Isle of Wight Low Energy Hospital (1993).

A detailed account of the work of the dhss architects' department can be found elsewhere. The path it followed was necessarily an erratic one as governments changed and boom followed slump followed boom. Goodman showed remarkable prescience in this climate; he almost always had a product ready for the new economic climate or minister. His own career followed an almost meteoric path; within 11 years of joining the MoH he became chief architect, which he remained for the next 17. The peak of his achievement was probably around 1984 when the Nucleus hospital system was constantly producing hospital schemes on programme, within budget and on a massive scale. This system was capable of continuing refinement and adaptation with a valuable export potential. The leader of the team and the one who made the largest single contribution was Howard Goodman.

At that point the Thatcher policy to reduce the Civil Service by a third was deployed, resulting in the abolition of the architect's department, which had never exceeded 60 members. The loss to the nation was incalculable, and still is.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters