ESALA Frictions Lecture: Annmarie Adams
From Richard Anderson
Grand Plans: hospital architecture and what it tells us
This talk explores the role of monumentality in a century of hospital design. From the sprawling British pavilion-plan building typology to postwar towers and today’s mega-institutions, hospital architects have consistently argued for bigness. Such notions of largesse have been expressed in a range of architectural ambitions, from building massing to complex arrangements for air and patient circulation. Is bigger always better? We explore extensive wards, imposing silhouettes, sophisticated anti-contagion strategies, and even temporary COVID hospitals with this question in mind.
Building on the methodologies of her 2008 book Medicine by Design, Adams’ new work extends the ways the built environment can serve as historical evidence. Current projects include a “spatial biography” of a well-known woman doctor; a feminist reconstruction of an Art Deco garden; and a yearning to capture her own subjective responses to the study of hospital architecture.
Annmarie Adams is an architectural historian based at McGill University, Montreal, where she is jointly appointed in the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. She holds the Stevenson Chair in the History and Philosophy of Science, including Medicine, and has recently finished a five-year term as Chair of the Department of Social Studies of Medicine. From 2011-15 she served as Director of the School of Architecture.
Adams’ publications include Architecture in the Family Way: Doctors, Houses, and Women, 1870-1900 (McGill-Queens University Press, 1996); Medicine by Design: The Architect and the Modern Hospital, 1893-1943 (University of Minnesota Press, 2008); and Designing Women: Gender and the Architectural Profession (University of Toronto Press, 2000), with sociologist Peta Tancred. She is currently writing a book on a pathologist and museum curator: Maude Abbott: A Life in 10 Spaces, under contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press and funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.