Last Saturday, people lined up for a chance to visit the new 12 acre campus of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in downtown Seattle. Positioned in the shadow of the Space Needle, the Foundation has a significant presence on the city’s landscape.
More importantly, it brings attention to the fact that Seattle has become the philanthropic capital of the world; since 1994, the Foundation has funded nearly $25 billion in charitable giving.
As a Seattle-area resident, a licensed architect and a Christian Scientist, the opening of the new campus drew me from three perspectives.
As an architect, witnessing architecture commissioned by clients with immense wealth is always fascinating. It reminds me of my Cal Poly days in Z lab when imagination was our only design limitation. Not yet prejudiced by what couldn’t be done, students sometimes came up with amazing designs.
Having recently visited the Getty Center in Los Angeles, I found it hard not to make comparisons between it and the new Gates Foundation campus.
And I’m sure many Seattleites have noticed the ironic proximity (across the street) of the Gates campus to Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen’s audacious Experience Music Project (EMP) landmark building designed by Frank Gehry.
Compared to the Getty Center and the EMP, I think the Gates Foundation campus is modest and restrained, despite critics who chastise it for its $500 million price tag.
Regardless if the campus architecture does not gain serious acclaim, the work of the Gates Foundation certainly has.
The Foundation’s global development program to reduce poverty and its United States program to improve education are significant philanthropic efforts, not to mention Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s “Giving Pledge” initiative to encourage their fellow billionaires to donate half their fortunes to charity.
And according to The Seattle Times, “since 2006, the Foundation has invested about $100 million in an effort to reduce family homelessness by half in the Seattle metropolitan area.”
As a Christian Scientist, what I learned at Saturday’s event made me grateful for the immense good the Foundation is working to achieve. I am not involved with their efforts, and I approach healthcare in a different way, but I feel a kinship with their desire to eliminate suffering, disease and the limitations that hold so many people back from realizing their full potential.
There are many individual and collective efforts working towards goals similar to the Foundation, including efforts using alternative approaches to healthcare. For instance, in every Christian Science church in Africa and throughout the world are Christian Scientists healing illness or disease in themselves and others through a non-medical spiritual approach. Here is an account of a man in the Democratic Republic of the Congo healed of a medically-diagnosed case of malaria. And to hear someone share how they were once healed of polio by this method, click here.
There is a definite shift underway in how people approach healthcare. Many physicians are recognizing that how a patient thinks plays a significant part in healthcare outcomes. Physicians are also recognizing that pharmaceutical advertisements suggesting illness to consumers are actually counter-productive to fostering a healthy society and that there is much to learn from the placebo effect.
The 15th guiding principle of the Gates Foundation is, “We leave room for growth and change.” As healthcare begins to increasingly focus on the importance of how people think, it will be interesting to observe the Foundation’s response to this trend.