Modern healthcare facilities are being transformed from sterile buildings into places that make patients feel calm and promote healing, with art playing a monumental role.
Incorporating various types of art into healthcare facilities has been shown to positively impact the health outcomes of patients across the globe. Art helps to boost patients in their physical, emotional and mental recovery by inducing feelings of relaxation and decreasing anxiety and perceptions of pain.
“It’s the whole emotional and perceptual context you are in. When you’re in a hospital it’s high stress. When we are stressed, we go back to our primal need to be soothed,” said Upali Nanda, vice president and director of research for American Art Resources, a healthcare art consulting firm in Houston.
Having completed a doctorate in architecture, specialising in healthcare systems and design, Nanda says art can aid in recovery, shorten hospital stays and assist with pain. She stresses that friendly faces, vivid landscapes and familiar objects help to lower blood pressure and heart rate while abstract images can have the opposite effect.
Such practice is hardly new, dating back at least as far as 1859 through the vision of English social reformer Florence Nightingale.
“Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the objects presented to patients have a powerful effect and are actual means of recovery,” she said at the time, and these words have obviously affected the modern approach to healthcare.
In the past, abstract artwork was often used, but there is a growing trend toward using pieces that are more realistic. A study in Swedish hospitals showed that tranquil images helped to relax staff and patients which resulted in patients recovering more quickly.
Numerous research studies dealing with patient healing and arts focus on architecture and design issues. Along with art such as paintings, photographs and murals, the physical design of healthcare units can greatly contribute to patient outcomes.
Fortunately for patients and healthcare workers, there has been a real movement lately toward bringing building users into the centre of the design with the aim of enhancing the overall experience of recovery or care.
Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
Designers of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne have tried to counteract the unpleasant reality of hospital stays with an abundance of artwork to ease the minds of young patients.
The atrium at the junction of the outpatients department is home to a 14-metre colourful sculpture called the ‘Creature.’ A large mobile piece of five butterflies called ‘Sky Garden’ hangs above the sculpture.
Design firm Buro North focused on designing around navigation and east way-finding in much of the hospital using over 5,000 signs, wall panels and landmarks.
The sculptures and murals bring animation and colour to the interior in order to remind patients of the positive things in life.
Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City
The Mount Sinai Division of Pediatric Hematology in New York commissioned the services of Splashes of Hope in 2005 to renovate the hospital’s outpatient facility.
Chemotherapy treatments were previously done in a sterile environment which they turned into a haven of artwork overnight. Murals of New York City were painted on the walls in an effort to make patients feel at home.
The hospital’s teen room, play room and pediatric infusion room are covered in a cityscape with familiar Manhattan structures including the hospital itself to stress the importance of a place that patients can call home.
Montefiore Hospital, Brighton, UK
The coastal community of Brighton, UK is home to healthcare architecture specialists IBI Nightingale’s recently completed Montefiore Hospital.
The project involved turning a former Victorian storehouse and office building into a modern, private hospital. It was quite a challenge to meet the operational requirements while also maintaining the character of the Victorian building, but the result is a gorgeous facility that guests say feels more like a boutique hotel than a hospital.
IBI Nightingale, in collaboration with Spire Healthcare, was joined by musician and artist Brian Eno who designed two light and sound installations to be integrated into the building’s design.
Eno’s artwork includes a reworking of his 77 Million Paintings piece. The hand-drawn and computer generated images were framed and hung in a grid in the lobby of the new hospital.
The artwork is matched with soft background music composed by Eno to allow patients to relax and escape the reality of hospital life.
A downstairs chemotherapy room branches off to a larger relaxation area called the ‘Quiet Room for Montefiore,’ which was conceived by Eno. There, he created a private, quiet space for patients and staff to relax and unwind. The room’s use of gentle music and warm lighting have been proven to lower the heart rates of those inside, offering evidence of its calming nature.
The Montefiore treats a mix of public and private patients and is a model of thoughtfully incorporating art into the building design, leading the way for healthcare architecture in the UK.