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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Scottish sanctuary
Frank Gehry's centre for cancer patients

Five choices of Britain's best new architecture

To mark Architecture Week, each day this week The Magazine will look at one of five notable new buildings to have opened in Britain in the past 12 months and ask what the excitement is about.

Before architect Frank Gehry pulled back the curtain on his Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, few tourists had heard of the industrial fishing town in northern Spain.

Today Bilbao is one of Europe's hottest weekend destinations - and the one attraction on every visitor's itinerary is Gehry's breathtakingly sculpted building.

Frank Gehry's centre for cancer patients

His sole mark on the British landscape is minor by comparison, yet, apparently, every bit as rewarding for the California-based 75-year-old.

"I didn't realise how good I was," said Gehry when asked how he felt at seeing his Maggie's Cancer Care centre in Dundee.

The building is one of the first in a planned series of 13 centres dedicated to the support and complementary treatment of cancer sufferers. Each is linked to a hospital oncology unit.

Created in memory of artist Maggie Jencks, who died of cancer in 1995, the organisation has enlisted some of the world's biggest names in architecture. Some, like Gehry, agree to give their time for free.

It's all down to the belief that architecture has a role to play in providing calming environments which help improve quality of life.

The acclaimed Dundee centre is built around a finely crafted plywood and pine skeleton (see picture above), which encompasses a reception, relaxation room and kitchen/dining area. An undulating stainless steel-clad roof is said, by Gehry, to have been inspired by a hat in a Vermeer painting.

Rooms with a view

A stubby tower attached to the main building was inspired by the traditional Highland dwellings known as brochs. Housing a library and contemplative space, it offers awesome views over the Tay estuary.

Naming it the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust's building of the year, Lord St John of Fawsley noted: "Although small, it has an astonishing variety of outstanding architectural features."

Compared to Gehry's Guggenheim, he said, it is "just as great".

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A beautiful and inspiring creation, created solely for bringing peace to those in need; what a wonderful thing.
Henry, UK

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