Wellcome Collection goes for big name design treatment

A host of design consultancies has been appointed to work on the £30m Wellcome Collection, a public venue opening in summer 2007, with further appointments in the pipeline.

A host of design consultancies has been appointed to work on the £30m Wellcome Collection, a public venue opening in summer 2007, with further appointments in the pipeline.

The six-storey former headquarters of independent medical research charity the Wellcome Trust is being remodelled by Hopkins Architects and will feature permanent exhibition designs by Gitta Gschwendtner, interactive installations by Ico Design Consultancy and graphics by Kerr Noble.

The exhibitions will be used to explore the connections between medicine, life and art, examining insights into well-being and the human condition. The Wellcome Trust has purchased artworks by contemporary artists John Isaacs, Mark Quinn and Keith Wilson to show in the collection.

Two 350m2 permanent galleries will be housed on the first floor, divided into the periods before and after the death – in 1936 – of Sir Henry Wellcome, the trust’s founder. Medicine Man, covering the earlier period, will present a mix of 900 objects collected by Wellcome. These will be housed in a walnut-panelled room, designed by Gschwendtner to reflect the collector’s drawing room.

Medicine Now will focus on contemporary medical topics, through the eyes of scientists, artists and popular culture. Ico is to develop two interactive installations, one based on medical techniques used to explore the body and another examining the processes of face recognition.

‘We are hoping to develop a system that will blend the user’s face with other people’s faces, using related characteristics,’ says Steve Cross, curator of the permanent galleries. The installation will ask users for certain lifestyle information, allowing comparisons with other users. ‘For example, you could look up the average face of visitors on Tuesdays, or the average face of smokers or males aged 30-to-35,’ adds Cross.

Ico’s second installation will explore biometrics, using different techniques to gather information about users’ bodies. ‘We will be playing around with different elements of biometrics and demonstrating how design and technology can capture the imagination and inspire those who engage with it,’ says Ico creative director Ben Tomlinson. The look of these installations will follow the ‘clean’ exhibition graphic design created by Kerr Noble, says Cross.

Tenders for the design of a café and members’ club are at the shortlist stage, while Nick Coombe and Nick Bell Design have been appointed to handle 3D and graphics respectively for the first temporary exhibition.

Separately, Graphic Thought Facility has been appointed to design an installation for the Wellcome Trust exhibition space. It will be on display at the Euston Road headquarters in London from November 2006 until September 2007.


• Permanent exhibitions – Gitta Gschwendtner, 3D exhibition design; Kerr Noble, graphics; Ico Design Consultancy, interactive installations

• Initial temporary exhibitions – Nick Coombe, 3D exhibition design; Nick Bell Design, graphics

• Café and members’ club – tenders currently at the shortlist stage, appointments expected by autumn

• Branding – Heavenly Marketing, identity; Cunningham Design, marketing collateral

• Architecture – Hopkins Architects

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