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University Hospital Centre, Caen* Image Credit: Lieux Dits / JC Lattes

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An architectural building which is usually the subject of fear and dread, the hospital finally has the design it deserves.

From the Medieval common room to the individual room, this is a fascinating and fabulously illustrated dive through lancets, lunatic asylums, and leprosy, from a sanatorium to the modern “Fontenoy” model. This brilliant study, coordinated by Pierre-Louis Laget, Claude Laroche, and Isabelle Duhau, examines a number of masterpieces, such as the hospices in Beaune, the chapel hospital of the Charité de Langres, and the Pitié Salpétrière teaching hospital. But it is the modern age which has held our keenest interest, with the evolution of the “healing machinery” of the 19th century to the advent of the hospital block in the 1930s.

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Image Credit: Lieux Dits / JC Lattes

This inspiration, modeled on the modern factory, can even make us shudder. During the sixties, other than the occasional remarkable building like the Necker University Hospital Centre, designed by André Wogenscky, the human aspect has often been neglected. Thus the hospital block would triumph, with its tower, of which the most shocking example, worthy of a science-fiction tale by J.G. Ballard, is without a doubt the University Hospital of Caen, by Henry Bernard (who was more inspired when he made the Radio House in France). This gargantuan edifice reflected a highly focused French will. We also discover that the project that occupied French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier during the last two years of his life was the construction of a hospital with 1,200 beds in Venice. A horizontal model that was meant to give more attention to patient well-being. “The hospital is a dwelling of man and the key is man”, the master thus claimed. He planned to create hanging gardens. Taking into account his gait, his gaze, and his stature, he even invented a new Modulor, the ideal scale for bed-bound patients. Sadly the architect's drowning in 1965 meant that his project and his wonderful ambitions would meet the same fate. It was not until the 1980s that humanisation was back at the forefront, with the construction of the Robert Debré Hospital by Pierre Triboulet. A prototype of the street hospital, filled with glass surfaces and flooded with natural light, reconciling the building with the elements of daily life. Terrace gardens overlooked the town. It was finally time for hospital and hospitality to rediscover their roots.

“Hospitals are somehow a measurement of how civilised a society is”, surgeon Jacques Tenon wrote as far back as the 18th century.

And also...

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Image Credit: Lieux Dits / JC Lattes

This unrelenting and often tragi-comic book tells the tale of the discovery by a young Parisian executive, only 25 years old, of his HIV-positive status. Then he tells his family, calls back all his exes, looks for the best doctor and endures the suspense of his current companion waiting for his results. Nothing escapes the author, not even an entertaining hospital tour, nor his justifiable aversion for the informative brochures and pamphlets worthy of Dora the Explorer. And of course the fatal error of judgement for a young entrepreneur when he naively tells his banker. In summary, the most lively story since the publication of Savage Nights by Cyril Collard in 1989. Surprisingly, though, Camille Genton observes the secrecy, shame, and suspicion that still surround the topic of AIDS. Finally, this may be a mere detail to you, but for us, it means a lot: the author is astounded that the hospitals in Paris had never called on a fashion designer to create the gown for the patients. So the call for tenders is out.

Positif by Camille Genton, Publisher, JC Lattès