City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Read the introduction to this series

Early in the morning after the night before, the 3 of us – yes, now 3 – move up to floor 5 of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, carrying multiple bags, nomads trying out yet another a new space in the hospital. We’re heading for one of the ‘amenity rooms’ – known as Green Rooms, due to the colour of their walls. These are rooms you have to pay for the use of, as opposed to going on the ward. I’ve nothing against public wards, but tired as we are and ready for a bit of focused rest, we decide to get one.

The pale green of the walls is, to my eyes, utterly redolent of British public service. It seems only to conjure up schools, hospitals, and other public works from the 1930s onwards, and in particular the green and yellow hard plastic plates that used to get stained purple with pickled beetroot at school. I seem to remember that Richard Macormac wanted to nod to this with a palette of colours for the new BBC Broadcasting House building, but it didn’t happen. I wonder why those colours are associated with that period? A form of paint technology meaning that could be produced in high volume for low cost? It’s actually a rather pleasing colour, and of course entirely fitting for an old British NHS hospital. The overall sensation reminds me of enamel tins, E.A. Rothholtz and Abram Games, Rennie’s, Isokon, Festival of Britain and so on. It’s almost impossible not to get nostalgic in these situations, but it’s important to resist. The atmosphere those things were forged in was progressive and wouldn’t have had much truck with nostalgia. That’s well skewered by Peter York here. Ultimately it’s good that this hospital is moving on.

However, for now, the room itself is peaceful and comfortable. The cupboard’s mirror is cracked and masking tape snakes across it. The old porcelain sink is pristine though. There’s an unnecessary television atop the cupboard – who would watch at a time like this? – but the rest of the room is fine, and in good nick.

Out of the window, there’s a view down onto a light well. It’s entirely covered with netting. Cedric Price might stick an aviary in there. That would be like a giant mobile for all the newborns. Looming over that, there’s a fine view of the excellent Post Office tower, or BT Tower, depending on your age/prediliction.

We’re only in the amenity room for a day or so, and then happy to be out with Oliver, out in the world with him for the first time.


Other pieces in this series:
A birth, in 13 places

1. Scan; Private clinic, Harley Street, Central London
2. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, UCLH, Huntley Street, Central London
3. Active Birth Centre, Tufnell Park, North London
4. Antenatal classes; 1A Roseberry Avenue, Central London
5. Bloomsbury Birthing Centre, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, UCLH, Huntley Street, Central London
6. Delivery Room 1, Labour Ward, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, UCLH, Huntley Street, Central London
7. A&E, UCLH Main Building, Gower Street, Central London
8. Amenity Room 6, Nixon Suite, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (part of UCH), Huntley Street, Central London
9. Café Deco, Store Street, Central London
10. Transitional Care Unit, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (UCLH), Huntley Street, Central London
11. Home, Gower Mews, Central London
12. Bloomsbury, Central London
13. Registry Office, Camden Town Hall, Central London


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: