I attend the Leeds Cancer Centre Institute of Oncology at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds on a fairly regular basis. As I walk into the building I am always struck by the beauty of the environment.
The building is light and airy, glowing with sunlight and fresh air. There is a gallery area with regularly changing artwork. Seating is carved from huge pieces of natural wood. Bright mobiles hang from the roof. A grand piano is often played by a volunteer, bright notes lilting through the air and echoing through the open space…
The Architects, Stantec, have worked hard to create a space which helps to calm and empower the visitor. No one wants to have to visit a cancer centre, so to be met with such a beautiful space goes a small way to reassure you the first time you walk in. I appreciate the care taken with the building.
However, on my most recent visit I found a piece of text on a wall, tucked away in a space I hadn’t noticed before, which made even more sense of the whole approach. The text reads as follows…
“The effect in sickness of beautiful objects, of variety of objects, and especially of brilliancy of colour is hardly at all appreciated…
People say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body, too. Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by colour, and light, we do know this, that they have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the objects presented to patients are actual means of recovery.”
And the author? No other than Florence Nightingale, writing in 1898 in her Notes on Nursing.
The creator of modern nursing understood only too well that the environment is crucial to healing. Positive energy can uplift the seriously ill and carry them onwards with support through tough treatments.
Medicine is now catching up, after over 100 years, with an understanding that various factors effect illness and the recovery from it. Sleep, stress, hormones, nutrition, movement, environment, and thoughts can all have an effect. Mindfulness meditation is being utilised in treatment by the NHS. The emerging science of Epigenetics examines how environmental stresses can impact genetic expression and be a basis for illness. Science is catching up with what Nightingale observed in Victorian times.
I’m excited by the imminent opening of a Maggie’s Cancer Centre at Leeds. Maggie’s is a charity which offers centres for cancer patients to drop in for support and information outside of the hospital environment.
What sets Maggie’s apart however is their absolute focus on surrounding the patient with beauty in order to support their healing. They aim to create a welcoming space very different from general hospital sterility.
All their buildings are architect designed gems with an emphasis on light and nature. The forthcoming Maggie’s Yorkshire Centre has been designed by the acclaimed Heatherwick Studio and features balconies of flowers and cosy internal safe spaces. I’m looking forward to it opening in Spring 2019.
I have instinctively followed the same principles in my tattoo studio where I create 3D Nipple Tattoos for people who have undergone breast cancer treatment and mastectomy. My clients can receive their nipple tattoos in a non medicalised studio full of light and nature, far from the sterility of a hospital or the busy bustle of an open tattoo studio.
When cancer and it’s treatment has sucked all the energy from your body and mind, beauty, art and thoughtful design can be the little spark you need to keep fighting…