Smout Allen

Living with Buildings

‘Living with Buildings’ at the Wellcome Collection, 4 October 2018—3 March 2019.

Examining the home and the hospital, the exhibition will chart how shifts in design and approach have impacted on the health and experience of those who use the buildings to live, to heal and to be human. 

Our built environment contributes to our physical and mental health in both positive and negative ways. We spend more time than ever inside and the approaches of architects, planners and designers can have a powerful influence over our feelings of individual wellbeing and self-esteem; on our community and society; as well as physical health. We not only spend more time within the structures of our cities, but more people than ever before live in metropolitan areas. This exhibition will examine ways in which architecture and the built environment interact with concerns of health and wellbeing. From the bold experiments of urban post-war town planners to healing spaces for cancer sufferers and fantastic utopias envisaged by artists, the visitor will look anew at the buildings that surround, and shape us. 

The exhibition design responds to the dual narrative of the domestic and the therapeutic, as well as to the aesthetics and materiality of its exhibits and commissioned work. 

It is arranged within a series of richly coloured ‘rooms’ construction from stained plywood panelling, metal meshes and visible timber framing which responds to the exhibition’s architectural focus. Cabinets and tables with oversized beech legs and weighty tops provide the exhibition ‘furniture’ and range from cabinets to domestic scale tables. The exhibition flows from the 18th century to the contemporary architecture of the Maggie’s Centres, and this is mirrored in the gradually opening up of rooms and the use of more lightweight and unfinished materials.

The exhibition design incorporates a range of content from books, posters, 2d artworks, 3d objects, films and interviews.

Curator Emily Sargeant, commissioned artist Giles Round, 2D designer Martin McGrath, lighting design by ZNA Lighting Design, project manager Georgina Monk.

Photographs by Thomas S G Farnetti. Source: Wellcome Collection. CC BY-NC-ND.