While investigating Guy’s Hospital in the London Bridge area I came across everything you might expect to find in a hospital. A bustling, noisy entrance area. A reception desk. A variety of people waiting patiently or pacing around, or queuing for coffee, or hugging loved ones. Maps and information boards with the locations of different wards and departments. Long hallways artificially lit with trolley-or-wheelchair bound patients being pushed by porters.
I also discovered other elements to this tower that surprised me. Some were in plain sight; some took a bit of exploring to locate.
This creepy looking thing was just loitering at the back of the main ground floor entrance area of the hospital. It’s an art installation by Tim Hunkin with quite a political theme (from the mouth of its creator, “I left it subtle, but the idea of the insatiable patient and the bottomless pit of NHS funding are there for anyone that likes analysing stuff”). Political stance aside, it’s a visually striking piece of work that fascinated me on my first visit. I drew it, I took videos, I photographed it.
In two of the atriums dotted around the hospital, I found pianos. I never quite found out their purpose. At a guess, I would think they are there for the free use of the public, the patients, visitors – any hospital users. On several occasions as I passed by I heard the tones of a piano being played, which when walking down a hospital corridor can be quite a surreal experience. Upon investigation, there were what seemed to me members of the public, sat playing peacefully. Every now and then someone might stop and listen, but generally life just carried on around them. It gave me ideas of grand orchestral performances taking part within the hospital to lift spirits.
I stopped at a random intersection within the hospital, turned my head to the left and found a dozen display cases and information boards. Upon closer inspection I realised it was a miniature museum, informing of the history of Guy’s and St. Thomas, and the hospital itself. There were old medical instruments on display, as well as former plans and sections of the original hospital building. This might not seem unexpected, as the London Bridge area has a rich history and has undergone a lot of change during the last two, three hundred years. But in a hospital of all places, I thought it was a nice touch and was surprised to see it here.
There’s nothing inherently strange about a hospital having a basement. What I found unexpected was being able to see this area, and to experience a very different hospital environment. Dingy corridors, quiet and (generally) a bit untidy. Certainly didn’t seem like a typical hospital environment and was actually quite intimidating being down there. I felt like I was going to be asked to leave if anyone spotted me down there. It’s not that it was off limits, and there are some wards down there. But the contrast to the floors above unsettled me somewhat. So it gave me ideas to give more unexpected surprises to unsuspecting, wandering patients…
The last mention for the unexpected discoveries found was a lecture theatre. Now Guy’s Hospital is a teaching hospital, so you would expect there to be medical students to be seen around the hospital, and there are several floors of the tower dedicated to student research, teachings and floor 24 contains a student cafe, lockers and chill rooms. What made this discovery fascinating was that it was on the very top floor, the 30th floor of the hospital. It was also out of bounds to all non-students of Kings College London (ssssh). I found this a great shame – as it meant the vast majority of people using the hospital would never get to see views like the one below, of the London Bridge area. You can see the base of the towering Shard, London Bridge station, the River Thames and Tower Bridge in the distance. It gave me a plethora of ideas to really open up the hospital, to take advantage of these unique and breathtaking conditions.