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A hospital. Boundaries are present everywhere, but in a hospital they hold particular importance. To prevent the spread of bacterial infections, to give patients privacy and respect, to hold documents with personal information, to allow doctors, researchers and students to work in peace.

What stops me from accessing these areas of the hospital? How far can I infiltrate the hospital before a locked door or security forces me to go back? These were the questions that interested me on my first few visits to Guy’s Hospital.

Firstly. Any member of the public is able to get in one of the elevators on the ground floor, ride it to the top and marvel at the views from the 30th floor. Able; as in there are no locked doors, or key-codes, or security guards (not in the lift lobbies anyway)

But. If you are caught up here, as a member of the public, you will be asked to leave.

So these areas were complex. Physically, they were accessible. They were however, restricted areas. For example, the 30th floor was for students of King’s College London only, and there were signs stating this. Up here was their lecture theatre – it would not do for members of the public to bumble in mid-lecture. But there was no one guarding the door demanding ID badges, or retinal scanners, or voice recognition security. Anybody is free to wander in and take a ride to most of the floors. Whether or not they should, is the question.

    final map A0           

A rather simplistic map I drew, to start investigating certain areas of the hospital. I only included a small sample of floors, as including all 30 would have been too long a task. Here, the purpose was to graphically portray space and boundaries within the hospital. Who was using this space? Who could access this space? Who was this space actually intended for? What boundaries were in place to stop one from reaching this space?

And of course, I had to document as much as I could. Below are some photographs that captured my ideas of boundaries, areas that were reachable but not supposed to be seen, and a few shots of elements that just caught my imagination.

As I ascended I noticed more doorways that were blocked off and restricted to me. Some gave little explanation as to why they were off limits.

As I ascended I noticed more doorways that were blocked off and restricted to me. Some gave little explanation as to why they were off limits.

No patients allowed. Welding? An area for builders or site workers only?

No patients allowed. Welding? An area for builders or site workers only?

A Security Notice.

Would a visitor bother going all the way back down to reception to sign in, if they were already on floor 16?

Ho

Straight ahead for Floor 18! Unless you are unauthorised.

Locked in. Old supplies?

Locked in. Old supplies?

Raz's leaving do. Wish I could have made it.

Raz’s retirement do. Wish I could have made it.

Staff and Students only.

Staff and Students only. Door would only open by using a key-code lock.

Low ceiling, creepy looking old door. Didn't stay here long.

Low ceiling, creepy looking old door. Didn’t stay here long.

Uh oh

Phew. Good thing I’m not a patient.

I got the feeling that parts of the upper floor were only used by a handful of people.

I got the feeling that parts of the upper floor were only used and experienced by a handful of people.

An old shaft, presumably for fire

An old shaft, presumably for fire safety. Hasn’t been used in a while by the looks of it.

20 seconds in the lift and I found myself up here.

20 seconds in the lift and I found myself up here.

Gett

Doors to the lift maintenance for the elevators in Guy’s Tower. 

As high as I could go.

As high as I could go.

Fine by me, as it was starting to get a little too high for my liking.

Fine by me, as it was starting to get a little too high for my liking.

All of the above images were captured on a Saturday afternoon. As such, the dental department on floors 18-27 was closed and were empty, with the exception of one or two cleaners. It was exhilarating and suspenseful to experience the hospital in this semi-awake state. Kinda creepy too.

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.

coinbox

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.

coinbox4

coinbox sequence

For more information on the installation see http://www.timhunkin.com/a101_guy%27s_collecting_box.htm

piano1

piano2

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.

A quick collage - a piano in the atrium, greeting patients as they enter with soothing scales.

A quick collage – a piano in the atrium, greeting patients as they enter with soothing scales.

museum

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.

museum3

Notice the hand...

Notice the hand…

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…

Admit it, you'd freak if you saw her down here

Admit it, you’d freak if you saw her down here

lecture

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.

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