27 December 2005

Grant Medical Clinic -- article pt. 2

Armstrong's Grant Medical Clinic of 1938 located at the intersection of North Taylor and West Pine in the Central West End. The building address is 114 North Taylor Avenue, as noted in the text of the article.

There are many features incorporated into the Grant Clinic that we today in the early twenty-first century take for granted. In the 1930s, many of these elements were in the process of being worked out. A good example is the photograph and caption here noting the window that allows the secretary to see into the Waiting Room. Its hard to imagine anyone even commenting on such a configuration for the receptionist in the past fifty years. Providing built-in cabinetry in the examination rooms is similarly an unremarkable, standard feature.

The comment in the first line about "pure functionalism" also seems anachronistic. Compared to today's 'Doc-in-a-Box' standard for physicians offices, the Grant Medical Clinic is a work of art with more than enough material and formal richness to satisfy anyone insured by an HMO. In truth, Armstrong's design is luxurious compared to many of today's doctor's offices.

Even excluding the use of materials, just the provision of natural light and view in the Waiting Room is a definite rarity. Certainly providing more space than is absolutely necessary is anathema to today's streamlined, efficient treatment centers. But the idea of spacing the chairs apart in the Waiting Room to provide for an added level of patient comfort and privacy, beyond being inefficient, would be eliminated on the basis of being unsustainable and therefore immoral.

Of course, we know better than to provide something as filthy as a fireplace in a place devoted to health.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of the examination rooms. Armstrong carefully and intentionally ensures that each Exam Room is located on an outside wall allowing for natural light and ventilation(!). He is similarly concerned with the interior relationships and functions of the office to position the Examination Rooms in a semi-circle around the main desk. Today's exam rooms are more likely to be down a narrow corridor, in a space with no natural light nor natural ventilation; an exam room's size is typically determined by the diagonal placement of the examination table with space for the patient, cabinets, and physician seeming to be a secondary consideration.

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the Harris Armstrong Archives, Special Collections, Washington University in Saint Louis.

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