Designing for wellbeing

A new exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection highlights some pioneering examples of buildings designed with health and wellness in mind. We talk to curator Emily Sargent about the show and what we can learn from looking at historic projects

The word hospital tends to conjure images of white walled rooms, linoleum floors, metal gurneys and maze-like buildings filled with identikit wards. We go to hospitals to feel better – yet these spaces often feel as if they were designed with efficiencies rather than wellness in mind.

A new exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection, however, looks at some very different kinds of treatment centres. Living with Buildings showcases innovative healthcare designs that combine clinical and human needs, from a 19th century sanatorium designed by Alvar Aalto to a prototype for a mobile health clinic. Through a mix of art, photography and historical artefacts, it examines how architecture can impact our physical and mental health and raises some thought-provoking questions about the spaces we inhabit.

“The exhibition looks at how architecture has impacted on people’s health historically but also how architecture has evolved as a response to that, so where health is situated as part of the design or a priority for building,” explains curator Emily Sargent.