Khaldoon Ahmed trained as a doctor at the Middlesex from 1994 until 2000 before continuing his career at other hospitals. But it is the Middlesex he has returned to, to piece together people’s memories about the hospital that he and many others still hold a fondness for.
Zaynab Dena Ziari from the Architectural Association in Bedford Square never visited the Middlesex but as an architect she is interested in people’s relationship with the hospital and their memories of it as a place. “My interest is beyond the building — memories of a place I haven’t been to”, she says.
Her father is from Iran, but she’s never been there. But his memories of the country and how he relates them to her is what interests her.
“My relationship to this place that I have a strong emotional connection to, but no physical connection, has been entirely constructed through stories. And for that reason, story-telling has played a very important part in my life — and has been much more significant for me than ‘place’.
“More than anything I am interested in the significance of story-telling in the construction of memory, or what you might call false memory (in my case), and I continuously question the importance of being situated in a ‘place’ without a story. My interest in the Middlesex Hospital is something akin to that, but the architect in me wonders to what degree the form of the space directly or indirectly affected the people who used it. So I will be curious to know how much of people’s memories are tied into how the space actually was,” she says.
Ahmed remembers as a trainee “following the doctors through the wards and corridors, the smell of the hospital, the patients sitting with oxygen masks”, he says. “The smells and sounds of the old hospital are very different to a modern hospital. Just by walking you’d experience different sounds because some of the floors were wooden. I remember the grand wooden panelling, the chapel, and the Frederick Cayley Robinson’s Acts of Mercy paintings which used to hang in the foyer.”
Together the two of them want to hear from former staff and patients about their experiences in the hospital to create a collection of lasting memories. The stories that they gather will directly impact the potential outcome of the project.
“Were you a neighbour? Or just a passerby? Whatever your connection is — do you have any stories of memories related to the Middlesex Hospital in Fitzrovia that you would like to share?” they ask.
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