Science has accumulated a massive amount of knowledge on combating and preventing disease, through nutrition and environmental factors as well as sophisticated technology. Designers have always been intimately involved in this process. Designing Health, The New Institute’s exhibition at the Designhuis in Eindhoven, shows how design and technology have influenced medicine through the ages and how they’ll continue to do so in the future. Curated by Sabine Wildevuur, the exhibition runs from Saturday 21 September through Sunday 5 January.
In solving today’s problems, medicine can learn from past practice as well as harness newer tools: art, applied games, apps, 3D printing, robots. Designing Health will showcase thought-provoking work by designers, artists and scientists, from the pearl-and-lace-bedecked human specimens of the famous Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch, who lived from 1638 to 1731, to the infant body modifications proposed by the artist-designer Agatha Haines in her recent Transfiguration project.
Design: part of the cure
Curator Wildevuur says the medical system needs new ideas fast. “In health care today, everything seems to be about cost management – health care needs to get more efficient and cheaper. Traditional systems and paradigms are changing. The welfare state as it was introduced in the 1960s cannot be maintained in the current era.”
Meeting today’s medical challenges requires a holistic approach, she says: “In the public debate, we must focus not only on innovative design solutions and technological improvements but also on behavioural changes, prevention and quality of life.”
She says there’s a growing need for “Do-It-with-Others” care, in which people work together to solve problems. As examples, she cites Fab Labs, which provide high-tech machines that allow individuals to make prototypes and products, and Buurtzorg, a home care organisation in which nurses and assistants work in small, independent neighbourhood teams.
Wildevuur, head of the Creative Care Lab at Waag Society and a guest researcher at VU University in Amsterdam, studies the ways health care, design, art, technology and science work together. She is a co-author of the forthcoming book Connect: Design for an Empathic Society, on designing for the elderly.
Workshops, talks and a natural pharmacy
The New Institute will hold a range of workshops, talks and debates in conjunction with the exhibition and host designer Marloes van Bennekom's plant-based Outdoor Pharmacy adjacent to the Designhuis. It will also hold a summer school for students.
Designing Health is a joint project with the city of Eindhoven.