Chronic Health – Happily ever after?

Type Update
Published on 22 December 2020
Part of Embassy of Health
Retrospective 2020: Embassy of Health
Part of Embassy of Health

The fourth edition of the Embassy of Health took place the same year that health systems were really put under pressure. The COVID-19 outbreak has made the theme of ‘Health’ more topical than ever. It turns out that health isn’t a ready-made product of our healthcare system but has everything to do with how we organise our lives.

“With the title ‘Chronic Health – Happily ever after?’ the Embassy of Health researches the way we handle our health,” curator Jetske van Oosten said. “And how we can organise a good quality of life together.” The virtual expo (in the form of a 3D Viewing Room at showed the power of research by design in asking questions and finding solutions. Designers and healthcare professionals guided us in sixteen projects through their visions of a healthy society. 


The virtual expo was part of the Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2020 and was divided into the following three themes.

The future of healthcare is intimate
Contact and intimacy are necessary for our quality of life, and the last year has really hammered that point home. The projects in this part of the exhibition are about the deeper connection between people. How do we create the intimacy that we need to reflect on ourselves and each other?

The future of healthcare is inclusive
Healthcare is for us all and is not the preserve of medical specialists. In the future, hospitals will only provide complex medical care. Our immediate environment is increasingly influencing our health, with the focus shifting to the neighbourhood level. How can we ensure that everyone is participating and no one feels left out?

The future of healthcare is connection
If we zoom out to the bigger picture, everything appears to be connected past the system’s borders. We are just one cog in a larger whole, and while we can’t always see the whole picture, we certainly can feel the impact. A healthy society goes hand in hand with a healthy planet, where systems are ‘in sync’ with each other. Are we able to set up a sustainable ecosystem together?


Visitors could learn about the sixteen different projects in the virtual expo, divided across the three themes described above. We’re happy to share a few highlights: 

Joost van Wijmen has designed various encounters in recent years in which the changing body is central. His series is about depicting and discussing intimacy and vulnerability. This year, in part 7, he asked the residents of a residential care centre to record on a timeline the positive and negative physical changes in their lives. He sees the elderly as experience experts; the project makes their resilience visible and makes their expertise available.

Joost van Wijmen’s work was part of the theme “Healthcare is intimate”. Other projects in this theme were: One Minute Futures: Prime Cycle, Data and design in youth services, Saying a proper goodbye and Magic Tea.

What is your position in a group? When were you last a part of the minority? Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Gabriel Fontana took a standard gym class at school as the basis for his research on group dynamics. He unravelled the competitive and normative sides of team sport and presented a more social variant in “Multiform”.

The project was part of the theme ‘Healthcare is inclusive’. Other projects on this theme were: One Minute Futures: Common Health, Vital and healthy on prescription, Renovation in Dialogue and Recreation. 

Grandmom Mom
The project “Grandmom Mom” ​​explored the ethical boundaries of modern reproductive technologies. Kuang-Yi Ku, selected by the VPRO in 2019 as one of the VPRO Builders of the future, created by founding the International Geriatric Pregnancy Centre, an institute for retired women whose wombs have been rejuvenated to produce offspring for their daughters. This solves the dilemma of having to choose between children or a carrier. Good for the economy, women’s emancipation and the labour market. But is that what we want?

Kuang-Yi Ku’s futuristic scenario was shown as part of the theme “Healthcare is in connections”. Other projects on this theme were: One Minute Futures: Immuno Calibration, One Minute Futures: The Caretaker, Adaptive as water, LABS – Future Interiors and Medical Metro metro lines.

Multiform by Gabriel Fontana
Multiform by Gabriel Fontana
Grandmom Mom by Kuang-Yi Ku
Grandmom Mom by Kuang-Yi Ku
Multiform by Gabriel Fontana
Multiform by Gabriel Fontana
Grandmom Mom by Kuang-Yi Ku
Grandmom Mom by Kuang-Yi Ku
Multiform by Gabriel Fontana
Multiform by Gabriel Fontana
Grandmom Mom by Kuang-Yi Ku
Grandmom Mom by Kuang-Yi Ku


The Embassy of Health had many online talks and conferences this year. A few highlights were:

Opening talk
In the opening talk of the Embassy of Health , Paulien Melis spoke about the future of healthcare with philosopher Henk Oosterling and designers Frank Kolkman and Mario de Zeeuw. Will we soon return to our “old” systems, or will we be able to break new ground?

Design a community of care
The past few months made us realise more than ever that we are responsible not only for ourselves but also for our neighbours. During the Design a community of care meeting, designers and healthcare professionals discussed the opportunities that they’ve seen and taken advantage of to strengthen local networks.

Co-design in a one and a half meter society
Never waste a good crisis. What opportunities does the corona crisis offer for design research projects in healthcare? In the online session for Co-design in a one and a half meter society researchers and designers shared their experiences and the opportunities they’ve seen.

New housing concepts for homeless young people
How can we involve the most vulnerable people in the community and protect them at the same time? During the meeting for New housing concepts for homeless young people, designers, municipalities and people from the healthcare industry discussed the opportunities they seized to combat the number of homeless young people.

Exploring Healthcare Futures
Can you imagine healthcare in 2050? Experimental designers Frank Kolkman and Reon Brand (Design Principal: Foresight and Strategic Innovation, Philips Experience Design) discussed the research frameworks and experimental methodologies used to design the future of healthcare in the talk Exploring Healthcare Futures.

The talk provided an insight into the “One Minute Futures” project, in which students from ArtEZ Arnhem depicted possible future scenarios for healthcare in four short video challenges.

There were also three Health News Segments organised in collaboration with Skipr. In each episode, the editor-in-chief of Skipr Simon Broersma talked to guests about a different Embassy of Health theme. The conversations took viewers through several special projects from the exhibition.

A few weeks after DDW20, there was a WDE Talks in Pakhuis de Zwijger in which we looked back at the Embassy of Health together with curator Gjilke Keuning (Embassy of Health, Health Hub Utrecht), Fenna Heyning (Director of STZ hospitals) and Matthijs van Dijk (Reframing Studio) and looked ahead to the future of health and care.

WDE Talks - Embassy of Health
WDE Talks - Embassy of Health
WDE Talks - Embassy of Health
WDE Talks - Embassy of Health


WDE made three different podcasts in collaboration with the Embassy of Health this year with stories from participating designers. In the first podcast we spoke with Jasper Brands of Panton about Medical Metro lines. In the second podcast  we spoke with Inge Kruit about what healthcare can learn from water management. In the last podcast we spoke to designers Danielle Roberts from Magic Tea and Naomi Jansen from De Voedselapotheek (The Food Pharmacy) about their projects.

Healthcare professionals sat down with one of the curators to discuss the themes in three substantive News Segments produced in collaboration with our media partner Bohn Stafleu van Loghum (BSL), publisher of Skipr and Zorgvisie, among others. BSL has distributed these segments, together with short videos and substantive articles, in the Skipr network in several newsletters and announcements.

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