23 July 2013


View of Room Four, photo © James Thompson

Since early 2013 RCA product design graduate James Thompson has been experimenting with a variety of means to record and re-map the features of a small confinement cell in High Royds, a former psychiatric hospital set in a 300 acre site in West Yorkshire. Rather than opting for imitative ways of documenting the site, such as photography, he has taken inspiration from the Cubists’ descriptions of space, which identified the duality of space and time and showed that it was possible to express multi-dimensional experiences of reality. The methods he has been using involve casting techniques, an adapted hand-held scanner and video recordings of changing light levels.

The results of his work, which include items of furniture, a kinetic and sonic piece, a print and a video will be displayed in the upcoming exhibition ‘Expanding Spaces’ in the Project Space of Marsden Woo Gallery from 14 September to 2 November 2013.

Some images of Thompson’s work in progress at High Royds can be seen here and regular updates are being posted at: http://room-four.tumblr.com

View of High Royds, photo © Mark Davis
View of High Royds, photo © Mark Davis

High Royds Psychiatric Hospital was designed by the architect J. Vickers Edwards and opened in 1888. In addition to care facilities, the complex of gothic buildings comprised a library, a surgery, dispensary, ballroom, butchers, dairy, bakery and its own railway system linked to the local line.  The hospital finally closed in 2003 and the site is now being redeveloped as a new village.

Suite of patient cells at High Royds, photo © Mark Davis

Thompson's experimental recordings focus on a single room, Cell No. 4

He uses latex to record the architectural features of the cell...

... as well as Jesmonite® 

Images are created by passing a hand-held scanning device across the surfaces of the
cell's furniture and fittings, such as a chair and the door, at varying speeds
A set of seats and other 3D objects are being developed from impressions 
captured in silicone and foam, and from a series of Jesmonite® casts. 

The exhibition, curated by Tessa Peters, opens during the London Design Festival, 14 – 22 September 2013. The project is sponsored by Jesmonite® and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

All work in progress images are by James Thompson.

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