Iria Suárez Martínez (RCA) - 2021-22 Students

Designing Health: Urban Spaces for Sick Children, 1850-1914

Between 1850–1914 new kinds of health spaces specifically designed to treat children were constructed in cities across Britain. During this time, London alone witnessed the emergence of more than a dozen institutions whose purpose was to cure and treat sick or impoverished children, to develop specialized medical training and advance clinical practice.

Focusing on detailed case studies in London, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle and employing original archive research, this study investigates how and why pediatric spaces were designed, and considers their impact on histories of health and child development in the modern city.

Existing histories tend to prioritize the work of male professionals – doctors, scientists and architects – in the production of pediatric spaces. In this project, I investigate the underrepresented perspectives of philanthropists, carers, patients and parents in order to better understand their role in determining the design and lived experience of children’s hospitals.

My analysis of primary evidence draws on recent work in children’s and emotional geographies, history of medicine, and architectural and design studies. This interdisciplinary project pushes the boundaries of design history by revealing the complex role of non-architects and, in particular, women, as key design agents the development of modern wellbeing spaces.

Primary supervisor: Dr Josephine Kane, RCA
Secondary supervisor: Dr Simona Valeriani, V&A

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