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Humanity in health: Brian Eno’s ‘The Quiet Room’

by Stephen Broadhurst, Creative Director, 11 London



A while back, I heard Brian Eno give a lecture at the British Library. Having been a long-term admirer of both his ambient and conventional music, it was great see him talk so eloquently about a whole series of interconnected topics, dear to my heart.


As the agency’s singular electronic knob wiggler and electronic music nut, hearing Eno speak about creating ambient music was predictably enlightening, but it was when he started to cross over into what I do myself as a health creative that I got really excited.


Whilst best known for his music, Eno is also very much a visual artist. The connection between the two was clear when he described his aims for ambient sound, wanting ‘to make music that occupied a space, but didn’t really “do” anything. Music that was like light or air.’


This united approach came through beautifully when Eno discussed his installation for cancer patients at Montefiore Hospital, Hove. ‘The Quiet Room’ is a tranquil space where Eno’s ambient tracks play out under panels of soft changing light. The room gives cancer patients and their families a place to sit, reflect, and have a human moment in the midst of hospital visits and treatments.


These days, tranquil public spaces are few and far between. This is keenly apparent living in a city like London, where our senses are constantly bombarded on busy streets and with shoulder-to-shoulder commutes. Indeed, anyone working in healthcare knows that busy hospitals can be as frenetic as the outside space. It was a surgeon at Montefiore Hospital who suggested that Eno should design a piece for his hospital, after noticing the calming effect one of his installations had on his mother-in-law’s anxiety. He wanted his patients to experience this same sense of calm, to help them with their treatment.


The piece was welcomed by patients, who compared The Quiet Room as being like being in a calming ‘cocoon’. There’s an innate meditativeness to Eno’s music, created through simple patterns, repeated on an infinite loop - beautiful sounds that exist in a moment, but that you cannot go back to. The artist reflected,


‘Because this music never repeats, you get used to the idea that you are never going to hear it again. It’s a change of mind, but you start to let go. You can think, it’s beautiful, I adore it, and it’s gone.’


After the talk, The Quiet Room stayed with me as a place where sound meets art - and art meets science – making healthcare even more human. It’s also a testament to designing things with a strong patient focus, thinking laterally about what patients really need, and how this can be fulfilled in a hospital environment.



About 11 London

11 London is an advertising and communications agency, based in leafy West London. We work in the areas of health and humanity - with organisations, brands or products that improve or prolong life. To learn more about 11 London, please contact:

matthew.hunt@11-london.com