Our surroundings have a powerful effect on how we feel, and hospitals can often be places of uncertainty and anxiety. However, thoughtful, considered design and beautiful art can make the experience better. The power of art is demonstrated at the recently launched PACT and Westfield Health Oncology and Haematology Centre, based at Sheffield Children’s Hospital – a regional centre for cancer treatment for children.
Having outgrown its previous facilities, money was raised by the Parents Association of Children with Tumours and Leukaemia (PACT) patient families to fund a new unit, with patient input at the forefront of the design. Artist Leah Bartholomew was commissioned by Artfelt, a charity specialising in bringing art into hospital environments, to create artworks that will lift the spirits. Artfelt worked closely with Avanti Architects, patients and staff to create an uplifting environment. The result is a colourful treatment centre tailored to the young patients’ needs.
The project also included an innovative interactive installation by Invisible Flock in the waiting room. The artwork reacts to the children’s movements, and projects them on to a digital screen keeping patients distracted while they wait.
Bartholomew devised bright artworks inspired by local Weston Park. As well as having wall-based prints, the ambitious scheme also included murals and other large-scale pieces. The architects were looking for ways to maximise the amount of art visible in the new wing. They achieved this using motifs from Bartholomew’s designs printed on Formica laminate and bonded to the doors provided by door expert, Doorpac. Formica HPL was selected for this project due to its suitability in healthcare environments. It is durable and approved by the hospital’s specialist infection control team as well as the project architects.
The way that art has been designed into the scheme injected vibrancy into the wing, creating a reassuring environment for young patients and their families.
Leah Bartholomew commented: “I always wanted my art to be in a place like a hospital where it’s so important to have colourful and optimistic works reminding you of the beauty in life.”
She continues: “I sat with my dad in hospital for months once, and I still remember the Ken Done work that he had to look at every day, and he loved it. I would love my work to resonate with someone like that piece did.”
Nina Bailey, UK Design Manager, said: “When patients and staff are brought into the design process, it can result in a space which works really well for all involved. Traditionally, healthcare design would play it safe, so it’s refreshing to see this scheme moving away from the dingy grey and clinical whites of the past. The use of sophisticated palettes and bold colours provides the space with a coherent, relaxing identity.”
She continues: “A pop of colour can add energy to a space and provide visual wayfinding. In places where patients may stay for longer periods of time, for example, on the ward, the trend is for more refined use of colour and a focus on creating a calming, healing environment, often looking to nature for inspiration.
“In places where people don’t tend to dwell for a long time, such as corridors and waiting rooms, healthcare designers are bringing in much bolder colours, citrus brights and so on. There’s an increasing understanding that these places need to be both memorable and uplifting. Designers and hospital administrators are waking up to the power that colour has in both helping people navigate complex hospitals as well as how important it is in setting a mood.”
The rejuvenated treatment space is now five times bigger than the previous clinic and boasts impressive views over Weston Park.
The success of this project was acknowledged by experts in the field even before opening, as this new wing has won two prestigious awards – one from Design Week and another from Building Better Healthcare.