Imperial Health Charity presents London Maps and Imagination Island, two new commissioned projects by Melanie Smith.
Melanie Smith, London is a Zoo, 2020. Installation view at St Mary's Hospital. Image: Imperial Health Charity.
Following the refurbishment of four consultation rooms in St Mary’s Hospital paediatric A&E department in 2020, the clinical team approached Imperial Health Charity with a request to fill these newly configured spaces with artwork that would appeal to the broad age-range of patients that use the service.
The team proposed the idea of having an artwork featuring a map or trail, and also requested that the work look to the city of London for inspiration. With this in mind, we approached artist and illustrator Melanie Smith who, following discussions with the staff about the hospital environment and the needs of their patients, created several illustrations for the rooms.
Taking London as a starting point, Melanie’s four bespoke maps each investigate the city through a different lens. In London is a Forest, viewers are treated to a survey of the city’s biggest and most vibrant outdoor spaces. London Transport Through the Ages explores the many ways in which people have moved around the city, from the underground to the penny-farthing. Some of London's most surprising animal residents are brought to life in London is a Zoo, and the city’s Campaigners, Inventors and Scientists are celebrated in the final drawing. The colours of the maps are subtly different and relate to the name of the rooms each artwork is situated in, to aid wayfinding.
Melanie Smith, London Transport Through the Ages, 2020. Installation view at St Mary's Hospital. Image: Imperial Health Charity.
These designs proved so popular with staff that we were later asked by the team at Grand Union ward if they could have something similar for their patients. Melanie generously agreed to allow us to extend this project, reprinting a selection of the maps and installing them in several more rooms so that they could be enjoyed by many more visitors.
Melanie Smith, Imagination Island, 2023. Installation view at St Mary's Hospital. Image: Imperial Health Charity.
In 2023, the paediatric allergy unit at St Mary’s Hospital reached out to the Imperial Health Charity arts team. They had recently refurbished their day room and were looking for a way to bring the space to life, and entertain and distract young visitors, who often spend hours in the unit being tested for allergies. The team had seen the wonderful work Melanie had produced previously and thought her visual style would work wonderfully with the needs of the space.
We were delighted to work with Melanie once more. She met with the Allergies team, including specialist paediatric psychologists, to devise an illustration of a fantastical island, a land filled with wild forests, secret camps and mysterious coves. The drawing is dotted with questions and prompts specifically developed to help patients think of ways to manage what can be a challenging experience.