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A permanent public commission for UCL for the new neurological research centre on Gray's Inn Road

Freya Gabie | ION-DRI Programme - UCL – University College London
In Conversation With...Freya Gabie | ION-DRI Programme - UCL – University College London


Neurological research is a form of exploration: uncovering what is hidden beneath skin and bone. I wanted to echo this approach in my commission, finding ways to treat the site as if it were a patient; looking beneath its surface to examine different historical layers and reveal what lies below to the light. Building constructors share similar techniques to neurologists in mapping concealed topographies, producing images that share a striking correlation, re-establishing the connection between the body and landscape; our inner bloodstreams, and the rivers around us.















     Neurological image: Queens Square Archives // Drawing for ‘Laertes’ Atlas’ Freya Gabie


There is also an association between looking below the surface with time. The accrued layers of the site are a physical manifestation of it; from the deep time of geology to the human time of archaeology. The site, much like ourselves, can be read as a palimpsest of different experiences. The neurological disease often tampers with this, targeting the hippocampus and impacting the ability to retrieve memories or project into a speculative future, potentially marooning someone in just one stratum.

Time can take many forms. When the neurological centre is complete, it will be experienced in myriad ways by the building’s many visitors; a patient will feel it differently from a scientist working in the building.

Because of this, I don’t want the work I make to be static, but ever-unfolding, revealing itself in new ways, so each encounter will be experienced afresh.

In light of these starting points, it seemed pertinent to look in particular at the historic subterranean River Fleet that flows under the site and find ways of approaching it as a conduit to interrogate time, memory, transformation, renewal, and exchange. Neurological disease can be defined through loss and isolation. In contrast, this research centre will be a space built from connection; a network of interdisciplinary research, empathy, democracy, and collaboration. I’m interested in exploring how exposing the river metaphorically may give us the language to consider and rearticulate disease in altered, unexpected form, highlighting connection throughout the space, while also revealing new perspectives, histories, and stories.

Laertes Atlas

12 stained glass windows for the building, lit with the light of 12 places across 12 timezones around the world, on a day from each calendar month of the year  

Detail of the Uranographia Britannica, Devonshire Collection / Freya Gabie stained glass

Furtive Ground

A compass for the building, using chemical elements found beneath the site




Detail of archaeological core, Lambeth Red, and John Mitchell, site foremen, holding a clod of soil from the deepest excavations of the building


A growing river of woven sound, created and experienced by the inhabitants of the building, as a collective journey, using the British Library water archive



Brain Ultrasound Cortexlab UCL

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Sky atlas presentation 1.jpg
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