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Competition: Living with Buildings, Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection
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The Wellcome Collection in central London has announced a competition to design a £60,000 installation addressing contemporary health issues

Open to architects, engineers, designers and artists, the competition seeks proposals for a 1:1-scale project exploring a key issue in human health today such as climate change, pollution, dementia, infectious diseases, obesity or emergency housing.

The winning scheme – which must be easily demountable and capable of holding up to 25 people – will be constructed inside the gallery as a live project visible to the public. The project will form the centrepiece of a major new exhibition opening in October, Living with Buildings, which explores the impact of architecture on human health.

According to the brief: ‘The exhibition Living with Buildings will chart how shifts in thinking and approaches to design have impacted on our health and wellbeing. From the bold experiments of urban post-war town planners to the considerately crafted healing spaces for cancer sufferers, the exhibition will look anew at the buildings that surround and shape us.

‘Alongside the exhibition, Wellcome invites proposals from architects, engineers, designers and artists for the construction of a 1:1 architectural project that addresses a key issue in human health today. This 1:1 commission will be revealed as a ‘live build’ in our first-floor gallery, as the main exhibition opens w/c 01 October. After the live build, the installation will be open to the public.’

The Wellcome Collection was created by the Wellcome Trust – one of the world’s largest medical charities – 10 years ago. It is based inside a £22.5 million venue on Euston Road, central London designed by Hopkins Architects.

The Living with Buildings exhibition will occupy the collection’s ground-floor gallery from 4 October to 3 March, 2019. The winning installation must be no larger than 10m by 16m with a maximum height of 4m.

Proposals will be expected to harness sustainable materials and to deploy a ‘kit of parts’ to ensure quick assembly and disassembly with minimal disruption to visitors. Concepts should be inclusive, accessible and appeal to both a local and international audience.

The competition encourages submissions that relate to an existing programme of research, which could be displayed alongside the pavilion. A programme of live changes to the installation during the course of the exhibition should also be considered.

Applications should include a practice profile, examples of three relevant projects, a 500-word synopsis, 1,500-word proposal and four pages of conceptual plans and visuals. Judges include NIC commissioner and dRMM founding director Sadie Morgan, Wellcome Collection senior curator Emily Sargent, AA head of exhibitions Vanessa Norwood, and Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn chair of design at the RCA.

Finalist teams will receive £500 each to develop their proposals ahead of a series of presentations to the jury in mid-February. The overall winner will receive a £7,500 fee to deliver the commission.

The deadline for applications is 1pm, 2 February.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Rd
Kings Cross

Email: lwbcommission@wellcome.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7611 2222



Emily Sargent, Wellcome Collection curator

Emily Sargent, Wellcome Collection curator

Emily Sargent, Wellcome Collection curator

Emily Sargent, Wellcome Collection curator

Why are your holding an open call for an architectural project addressing contemporary health issues?

The open call for an architectural project is part of Living with Buildings, an exhibition that opens at Wellcome Collection in October 2018, which explores links between health and buildings. The exhibition will feature material from the history of architecture and urban planning, as well as social history and contemporary artwork. It felt important to give the visitors the opportunity to encounter an architectural project at 1:1 scale as part of the exhibition, to shift the act of looking to one of experiencing. The commission also provides the opportunity to look to the future, of how architecture could contribute to a conversation about a particular health issue.

What is your vision for the new installation?

The new installation will be sited inside one of the Wellcome Collection’s existing galleries. The gallery itself is 33 x 10metres wide, but we anticipate the structure will occupy a space around 10 x 16 metres with a maximum height of 4 metres. Building a structure in a museum gallery does involve some restrictions – we can’t accommodate plants for example or materials that could attract bugs and pests as well as most liquids. I’m excited about the possibilities of receiving proposals which respond to health in a playful and creative way. This is a wonderful opportunity for an architect or designer to try something brave, innovative and aesthetically interesting. We’re especially interested to hear from architects who are committed to inclusivity in design – to make sure the structure is as accessible as it can be to all our visitors and sustainable in its approach to construction material selection and use.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

I’m hoping to hear from architects and designers across the board. It could be an opportunity for a small practice who have an idea that they haven’t yet been able to realise, or a new direction from an established practice. Ideally the commission should form part of an already developed wider research project related to a health that the chosen practice has a particular interest or expertise in. Participants will have the opportunity to showcase their design to a wide public and their peers, as well as be part of a major exhibition launch at Wellcome Collection.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

This is our first architecture specific commission and we’re very excited to see what responses we get. It follows an exhibition entitled Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?, which explored graphic design’s role in the health choices we make in our daily lives. I think this really reinforces Wellcome’s interest in design and it’s relationship to health. While we often make smaller commissions and will continue to work with architects and designers on our exhibitions, the scale of this project is rare, and an opportunity to seize!

Are there any other recent health-related installations you have been impressed by?

I’ve recently been on a tour of Maggie’s Centres across Scotland. I was really impressed by how the same brief elicits such a breadth of responses, the clear impact good design can have on health (and wellbeing) and how the users needs are so integral to each design decision.

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