The Wellcome Collection deliver some really good exhibitions and I have been to many over the years. This one is one of their best and it’s on until 3rd March 2019. Living with Buildings: Health and Architecture is good because it combines buildings with literature and art, so is right up my street for sure. The exhibition emphasises the effect of the built environment on health and well-being and considers the ideas, thinking and those involved in seeking to create healthier communities and bring an end to poor living environments.
The exhibition reminds us of Dickens’ role in depicting the life of the poor in sections of Oliver Twist from the 1850s and he tells us that nothing effectual can be done for the poor until dwelling places are made decent and wholesome. Many politicians still seem to struggle with this common sense and basic fact and this exhibition acts as a reminder of the importance not just of housing but of other building design and how this affects both physical and mental health.
Image credit: Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0
I recognised many of the etchings and images on display at the exhibition from the Wellcome website but some that were new to me were graphic designer Abram Games’ 1942 posters for the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, from the Your Britain Fight for it Now series that I hadn’t come across before. This series of posters portrayed progressive buildings of post-war hope and new beginnings. These included the interwar modernist architects contribution to the rehousing movement like Kensal House – designed for the working classes – as well as Lubetkin’s Finsbury Health Centre. We will return to Lubetkin another time. I had no idea that Churchill said that these posters were a disgraceful libel on the conditions prevailing before the war. Well, take a look at 1935 Housing Problems to discredit that view! This lovely little social documentary films families in their own homes and shows Kensal House (and other places) in their development phase. More information is available here.
There is plenty else to see too about housing and health care buildings and they thinking behind their design for health, including images and information on the garden cities movement, Goldfinger’s towers, 1872 engravings by Gustave Dore – and much more besides. Go if you can!