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Designhuis at #DDW13

After last year’s exhibition about food and eating habits, this year The New Institute put on a show about our health. Designing Health takes visitors on a journey through 21st century healthcare. 

By Cassandra Pizzey / 31-10-2013

It’s clear healthcare has come a long way since the 1900s but what do we really know about modern science and the tools it uses? Designing Health at the Designhuis in Eindhoven shows how design has played a crucial role in creating new healthcare systems and how it may influence our future. 

Genetically modified fruit and vegetables have become commonplace and can be found in most supermarkets today but how about genetically-modified humans? It seems like something from a science-fiction film but artist Agatha Haines presents exactly this as reality in her work Transfigurations. We see five of new-born babies with modifications made to their bodies through surgery. The modifications have been made to circumvent potential future issues  such as pollution and mobility. The question arises, should we make use of all technology just because we can?

It’s an interesting opening question to an exhibition about technology and health for it has offered us so much.  Take for instance the advancement made in the field of prosthetics. Where losing a leg used to mean the end of a career in the field of sports, a special prothetic leg or ‘blade’ can be the decider in a gold medal sprint. And thanks to technology we are now one step closer to creating 3-D printed organs suitable for transplants. 

Not all of the projects on show are related to ethical discourse, many are designer to make a stay in hospital a more pleasant experience or to reduce the bore of waiting rooms. Philip Lüschen for instance created a humorous set of objects and games intended to shorten the waiting time for patients.  

There are all manner of creative projects dealing with our ever-ageing society. As we grow older and older, there is a need to preserve the body and its functions. A project designed by Wolfgang Moll named Gert is an age simulation suit and allows people to see and feel what it would be like in later years when developing age-related symptoms. A glove with an electric pulse attached allows you to feel how it would be to have Parkinson’s disease and glasses with a hazy lens let you see as though you had cataracts. But that’s the physical side. What about the mental?

Of course a suit can’t make you feel as though you are becoming forgetful, but there are designs developed to help patients dealing with memory loss. Olfactory senses are linked to certain smells can remind patients with Alzheimer’s of their daily tasks. One project gives of a scented steam at certain times of day, inducing an appetite in those prone to forgetting their meals. 

Smell can also play a part in diagnosing ailments, as the project Bee’s by Susana Soares shows. Patients breath into a glass object that contains bees – in a separate chamber – which will show a certain pattern according to any disease they recognize. 

The exhibition has an interesting overview of different contemporary health projects, interspersed with old biology sketches and quotes from the likes of Charles Darwin. Both an interactive and educational show, the exhibition invites visitors to think twice about healthcare and the role design and technology have and will continue to play. 

Designing Health is on until 5 January 2013 at the Designhuis in Eindhoven. 

Images 1,2,3 Lizzy Kalisvaart 4. Agatha Haines 5. Philip Lüschen 6. Gert suit 7. Susana Soares

www.thenewinstitute.nl
designhuis.nl

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