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London has a new Design Space this time with a little spice of wonder and odd. What it once was a library, cluttered and closed off with book stacks is now a new design venue, part gallery and part library.London practice AOC designed the Reading Room at Wellcome Collection, a “collaborative visual dreaming” made possible by getting designers on board early in the project. With the perfect setting for events, the New Reading Room for the Wellcom Collection was designed to encourage you to indulge your curiosity and explore more than ever before
The 390sq m hall, which can be reached by the spiral staircase that architect Wilkinson Eyre build as part of the Wellcome’s current redevelopment, is both reading room and cabinet of curiosities, where 100 artefacts – medical oddities once relegated to storage at an old post office building in Earls Court – are now on view.
The room has windows on three sides and, on the remaining wall, under a mezzanine that shields the area from natural light, there are paintings – some gruesome – of blood lettings, teeth pulling and the suturing of wounds. Displayed on plinths in the centre of the room are an antique X-ray machine and a dentist’s station, shown alongside works by contemporary artists and designers including Marc Quinn, Helen Storey and Eleanor Crook.
Each reading table is composed composed of odd sets with two heights and two round metal bases that resemble a pill, the invention that made Wellcome his fortune.
Ercol sofas and chairs are arranged on a blood-red carpet, under chandeliers made by Dutch design studio Vij5 are decorated in a material depicting the crystallography of insulin, a design originally used as wallpaper during the Festival of Britain, while cushions decorated in the same fabric frame a similarly ruby staircase.
This participative and open access gallery aims to create opportunities for people to stay longer, have a greater depth of engagement and actively conduct their own visits by integrating different spaces, floors and functions. Visitors can also leave cuttings on pinboards, and write comments on bookmarks in the thousand or so volumes on open access.
As seen in Icon Magazine