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HOSPITAbLe: the domestication of healthcare

The challenges society faces in providing future healthcare suggests significant rethinking of the way health services are delivered and the way we engage with them. There is recognition that this is likely to demand more self-care and the shift of care from hospital to home.  This collection of objects explores implications of this shift in both the culture and practice of health interventions. 

Funded by: NIHR CLARHC Yorkshire & Humber, Art & Design Research Centre

Partnered with
The Waag Society, Amsterdam; Gallerie UM, Prague

Team: Paul Chamberlain

The home and hospital bring together very different cultural practices and environments, and the inexorable geographical shift in care has potential to impact on our physical and emotional relationship with our home space.

While professional care support within the home may be beneficial to the informal carer and care recipient, they also transgress the social space of the home and challenge its symbolic.

“The role of the designer
is that of a very good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests”.

Charles Eames

If we are to assume a greater uptake of healthcare at home to relieve pressures on current systems of delivery, we must not simply develop solutions and focus research within the narrow boundaries of healthcare. Solutions will only be successful if they fit with the complexity of our lives. Therefore there is value in taking everyday experiences as a starting point. This research draws on the value of thinking with things through physical metaphors, engaging people in meaningful ways to elicit their understanding. 

Theatrum Anatomicum, WAAG Society, Amsterdam

“The things we use and make (technologies) are not neutral objects but embodiments of ourselves and cultural values. Where a disconnect between the technology and these cultural values emerge this impacts on the individuals relationship with the world”.


The HOSPITAbLe collection reflects upon and imagines an ambiguous future domestic landscape that presents hybrid functionality and a confused visual language and soundscape. A transient world of semi-alien and alien objects that not only challenge trust, but prohibit control and access. New objects defined by emerging technologies that at times attempt to hide and camouflage. The definers and providers of these future objects being ever more concerned with our health and safety, nudging us into behavioural change but fearful of litigation. An interconnected landscape within which access to health data and information is ubiquitous, incomplete and confusing. Objects that help, support, betray and confront our own mortality

“The invasion of illness- related technology into the home has the potential to destroy the nurturing and therapeutic environment of home as a means of promoting health recovery.”


The HOSPITAbLe Collection was exhibited in 2017 at the historic Anatomical Theatre at the Waag Society, Amsterdam, the UMPRUM Gallery Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prague, and the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. In 2018 the collection was exhibited at the Yorkshire Artspace Gallery, Sheffield and at the NIHR Health Services Research UK conference, Nottingham.

A booklet to accompany the exhibition is available here.