Craft makes you feel better
Recognising that the environment influences how you feel, hospitals have become one of the biggest commissioners of public art and craft. Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is committed to allocating 1% towards commissioning art works for all new capital and major refurbishment projects, and has an extensive collection of work by artists, designers and craft practitioners, as well as maintaining a historic collection.
The charity commissioned Heatherwick Studio in 2004 to redevelop and transform the entrance of Guy’s Hospital for the benefit of patients, visitors and staff. The boiler house was in particular need of improvement, one of the first buildings visitors encounter on arrival, vitally important but very ugly.
Intimately grasping the aesthetic appeal and the functionality of the chosen material, stainless steel, the Studio completed the Boiler Suit in 2007, a unique façade encasing the boiler house. The heavy machinery within will need occasional access or removal, so the tiled system wrapping around the building can be dismantled with ease. Heatherwick had seen terracotta tiles used in tube stations, and thought a similar solution might work with a different material. The Boiler Suit’s huge undulating tile panels are woven from stainless steel braid, and interlink into a single surface of swellings and dimples. They allow the building to breathe and give access to the building.
The surface is responsive to the environment, reflecting surrounding colours, becoming animated and beautiful, especially at sunset. Lighting from within provides a dramatic luminous surface at night, creating a distinctive, welcoming beacon for staff and visitors arriving in the dark.
Newly graduated from the Royal College of Art, Thomas Heatherwick received a Crafts Council Setting Up Grant (now the Development Award) in 1995. Today he has his own studio, and a succession of accolades and awards, including the prestigious Prince Philip Designers Prize. Find out more about the Heatherwick Studio.
Woven textile artist and architectural colour consultant Ptolemy Mann also received a Crafts Council Setting Up Grant (1997). In 2006 she was commissioned to work with a major new hospital development in Nottinghamshire. Click here to read more.
Other organisations that commission and promote craft within the built environment in the healthcare sector include:
Willis Newson, an established arts consultancy specialising in healthcare and the built environment,has delivered over 20 arts and craft programmes in a variety of settings including the Moving On project for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, the largest arts in mental health project in the UK. They are currently working on a project for the South West London and St Georges Mental Health Trust with architects MAAP; they will be commissioning furniture, tableware and glass with the aim of demonstrating how craft and design can address some of the specific needs of the new community of service users and staff..
Stop Press are currently seeking partners for a project Wide Open Space in rural Dorset. Read more here (PDF).
Vital Arts, who deliver a collaborative programme of integrated arts projects for patients, staff and the wider hospital community of Barts and the London NHS Trust.
Craftspace have been involved with projects at the Maternity Unit, Queens Hospital, Burton who hosted a residency to create work for their waiting room and a design initiative to transform three spaces in the Young Person’s Unit at the University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Cancer Centre.
Lime’s work in Manchester is about linking communities inside and outside the healthcare system and creating opportunities for artists to develop their practice.
An interesting new collaboration is between the Medical Research Council and Central Saint Martins College. Five Nobel-winning scientists were paired with five textile designers and researchers as part of a two-year project. See some of the results at Nobel Textiles.
New London Architecture held an exhibition in 2005 ‘Capital Health’ which gave a comprehensive overview of London’s healthcare building projects.
Arts & Health South West is an organisation for everyone interested in the Arts and Health sector in the South West of England and can provide both information and support.
London Arts in Health Forum (LAHF) a networking organisation that promotes and supports arts in health activity across London and nationally.
The Crafts Council currently have pieces from their Collection on loan to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and St Georges Hospital in Tooting, South London.