Immersive rainforest brings benefits of nature to Barts' NHS staff and patients

Matthew Andrews and Barts Heritage
The immersive rainforest gives NHS staff and visitors a moment of quiet reflection. Credit: Matthew Andrews and Barts Heritage

NHS staff and patients are being given the opportunity to immerse themselves in an ancient rainforest - all within the walls of London's oldest hospital.

Created by photographer Chrystel Lebas the installation brings the benefits of the natural world to St Bartholomew’s North Wing through a series of stunning images taken in temperate rainforests around the world.

The installation is designed to give NHS staff and patients a mindfulness moment and to allow them to experience the health benefits of ‘forest bathing’.

The giant photographs will be accompanied by ambient sounds recorded on location as well as the scent of petrichor which imitates the smell of the forest floor after rainfall.

"The works will offer a moment of quiet reflection for NHS staff, patients and the public and a reminder of the health benefits of spending time in nature," a spokesperson.

Regarding Forests by artist Chrystel Lebas features large-scale photographs taken during her travels around the world. Credit: Matthew Andrews and Barts Heritage

The installation at St Bartholomew’s Hospital is a collaboration between Barts Heritage and Wellcome Collection.

In 2019 Lebas visited the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington State, USA, and the Japanese island of Yakushima, known for its Yakusugi or cedar trees.

These two rainforests contain some of the oldest living trees in the world.

Researchers at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo first publicised their research into the health benefits of shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ in the 1980s.

Studies suggest that being in nature calms the stress response of the nervous system, which in turn assists the body's immune response.

Barts Heritage chief executive Will Palin said: “Art has long played an important role within this beautiful building, providing a tranquil setting for contemplation, a stimulus for the imagination and an aid to recovery."

Lebas said; “I wanted to create a tranquil environment that translates my experience of being alone in these awe-inspiring landscapes and to share it with visitors.”

Regarding Forests by Chrystel Lebas is on display in the North Wing at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on Tuesdays – Fridays, 11am – 4pm, until 2 December 2021. It is a touring exhibition by Wellcome Collection and part of the ‘On Happiness’ season. Visiting is free and booking is not required.