Visitors to Britain’s oldest hospital can experience the wonder of the ancient rainforest in new installation which opened this week.
Regarding Forests by artist Chrystel Lebas features large-scale photographs taken during her travels around the world.
Displayed in the hospital’s Grade I listed North Wing featuring its Great Hall and staircase painted by William Hogarth, the works will offer a moment of quiet reflection for NHS staff, patients and the public and a reminder of the health benefits of spending time in nature.
In 2019 Lebas visited the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington State, USA, and the Japanese island of Yakushima, known for its Yakusugi or cedar trees.
These two rainforests contain some of the oldest living trees in the world.
The giant photographs will be accompanied by ambient sounds recorded on location as well as the scent of petrichor which imitates the smell of the forest floor after rainfall.
Researchers at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo first publicised their research into the health benefits of shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ in the 1980s.
Studies suggest that being in nature calms the stress response of the nervous system, which in turn assists the body's immune response.
Barts Heritage chief executive Will Palin said: “Art has long played an important role within this beautiful building, providing a tranquil setting for contemplation, a stimulus for the imagination and an aid to recovery.
“Connections between heritage and health will form the backbone to our forthcoming project to repair and conserve the North Wing.”
Lebas said; “I wanted to create a tranquil environment that translates my experience of being alone in these awe-inspiring landscapes and to share it with visitors.”
In preparation for the 900th anniversary of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Barts Heritage has been established to rescue and renovate the historic buildings at the heart of St Bartholomew’s, including the Grade I listed North Wing with its spectacular Great Hall and the staircase painted by William Hogarth.
Barts Heritage aims to bring the buildings back to life and back into public use, whilst also providing wellbeing facilities for Barts Health staff.
Regarding Forests by Chrystel Lebas is on display in the North Wing at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Tuesdays – Fridays, 11am – 4pm, until 2 December 2021. It is a touring exhibition by Wellcome Collection and part of the ‘On Happiness’ season . Visiting is free and booking is not required.
Picture credit: Matthew Andrews and Barts Heritage