The Great Exhibition Road Festival
Imperial College London
28th-30th June 2019
GREEN SPACE is an installation that explores the health benefits of green spaces in cities and how we connect with nature in an urban environment. This collaborative project brings together the work of Imperial College London researcher Charlie Roscoe, artist Enya Lachman-Curl, designer Robbie Thompson, musician Robbie Parks, and Science Museum curator Rupert Cole.
The installation’s structure consists of three large-scale, concrete-like blocks, which enclose an interior space of green refuge. Inspired by the juxtaposition of grey concrete with vivacious greenery in the city, the installation evokes the physical and mental transition experienced when moving into a green space.
On entering, the inner organic forms, previously obscured by the ‘concrete’ outer walls, dissolve into greenery that envelops visitors. Enya Lachman-Curl’s 360-degree oil paintings capture the artist’s fascination with plant life and the flowing open spaces in between them. Her large, sweeping abstractions offer a contemporary interpretation of green space. Through the cropping of organic forms, she reminds us how vegetation transcends the physical space that contains it.
In the accompanying soundscape, combining meditative synthesisers with delicate piano motifs, Robbie Parks evokes the sanctuary that green spaces provide, inviting us to consider the possibilities simple encounters with nature offer for relaxed, contemplative thought.
The installation was conceived to communicate Charlie Roscoe’s PhD research on green space and health in older adults. Her research explores how urban green spaces in our local neighbourhoods help all of us maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system. She works with the UK Biobank database, which has collected medical and lifestyle information from 500,000 volunteers.
The health benefits of green space may be related to reduced exposure to harmful pollutants – such as nitrogen dioxide or traffic noise – or its facilitation of exercise, such as walking and jogging. Additionally, green space can reduce stress, and contribute to better mental health.
It is already well evidenced that the incidence of heart attacks and strokes is lower for people who live in greener neighbourhoods, but evidencing exactly how health is protected is a challenge. It relies on data availability and making assumptions about exposure.
Communicating this ongoing research through cross-discipline projects broadens awareness of environmental health and environmental equality research, bringing home to visitors the benefits of green spaces in the city around them. It highlights the vital importance of experiencing, protecting and expanding urban green spaces for health.
GREEN SPACE will be on display this June at The Great Exhibition Road Festival in South Kensington https://www.greatexhibitionroadfestival.co.uk/ and at the Medical Research Council’s Festival of Medical Research https://mrc.ukri.org/about/getting-involved/mrcfestival/
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