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Use of Artwork


different types of artwork and environments, which enables artists and designers to tailor schemes to specific user groups. Whilst with every project it is important to consider and involve individuals, and to understand the various elements that affect how they respond to artworks, we can now approach projects with the knowledge of a substantial body of research into how art can create positive and welcoming healing spaces.


LOCATING ARTWORK FOR IMPACT, WAYFINDING, AND FUNCTION Hospitals benefit from a variety of visual experiences. Sometimes a quiet, unexpected encounter can be as powerful as high impact, prominent artworks. It can be highly effective to create a sense of intrigue, for example by placing artwork just round the corner, (or glimpsed through a window). However, in general it helps to place artwork where people can pause to appreciate it. Public areas (main entrances, lobbies, receptions, waiting areas, cafés) benefit from large, dynamic artwork to create an instantly welcoming and supportive first impression. These spaces represent the first opportunity to deinstitutionalise the health care environment, helping to reassure and calm new service-users. At the Ferndene Young People’s Unit, an architectural feature wall of green cladding in the entrance and café carries bold artwork and poetry to set the scene for the art strategy that filters through the rest of the campus. Spending art budgets where most people can benefit delivers good value for money, and, as these spaces are generally bigger and people typically pass through relatively quickly, the art can be more stimulating and impactful than in other areas. The exception to this might be in dedicated autism units, where noisy public areas require ‘quieter’ artwork to counteract the high stimulation. Calmer, smaller, and more intimate or detailed art is generally more suitable for shared inpatient areas (ward


‘Art budgets for new-build and refurbished hospitals usually represent less than 1% of the overall capital spend’


corridors and lounges), as users spend more time here, and the spaces are more confined.


POSITIONING IN KEY LOCATIONS As well as providing focal points and positive distractions, artworks can be particularly effective when positioned in key locations so as to aid wayfinding. At Kirkwood Hospice in Huddersfield, artwork is used behind staff bases and above bedheads to clearly identify areas for wayfinding. The colours of the artwork in the scheme match the other finishes to provide a harmonious, modern, and welcoming space. Wayfinding specialists, Jan Carpman and Myron Grant are concerned with reducing the unnecessary stress of disorientation that poor wayfinding can elicit, which is especially important in mental health units. The ward manager for the Roker and Mowbray Dementia Centre said of the seaside corridor artwork: “The artworks are used to orientate patients to their bedroom areas, and they encourage the person who wanders to stop, look, and take a little break.” Coherence in art strategy across buildings/campuses maintains a signature style to the overall scheme, aiding wayfinding, and providing a familiar feel to the spaces.


At Tyne, a locked rehabilitation service for people with learning disabilities in Morpeth, Dan Savage’s photographic wall mural of a woodland path evokes memories of youthful walks and tree climbing. It was inspired by service-users’ own photographs taken in the hospital grounds.


ART ‘IN HARMONY’ WITH ARCHITECTURE Art that is in harmony with the architecture provides a calmer, more cohesive, and more purposeful environment. Integration of artwork into functional items is an excellent way to humanise spaces and disguise sensitive, clinical, and security roles of some items. A high security fence can become an art installation; wall protection can become a mural; manifestation and privacy screens can become beautiful glass art. Assuming that fire ratings, loadings, fixings, and mandatory regulations are met, such an approach provides value for money to the client, accessing the build budget to provide a visually enhanced functional product that makes a space special, rather than threatening.


CONCLUSION Allocated art budgets for new-build and refurbished hospitals usually represent less than 1% of the overall capital spend, but the impact that art has on service-users, visitors, and staff, is huge. The clinical nurse manager for the Roker and Mowbray Dementia Centre in Sunderland commented: “The impact on quality of life for the people with dementia in Roker and Mowbray with the carefully designed artwork has been excellent, promoting conversation and social interaction, reducing isolation and distress, and improving orientation, and has had a definite positive impact on mood and behaviour.” When art is thoughtfully considered and responds to evidence-based design research, and the needs of individual patient groups, the effect can go far beyond aesthetic enhancement toward improving service-users’ overall health, as well as boosting the morale and wellbeing of clinical staff and visitors, which in turn benefits patients further.


About the author


Dan Savage is a visual artist and designer who specialises in creating integral artwork for healthcare


environments. He is an advocate of evidence- based design, using research in the field of art and interior design to create healing spaces. Engaging fully with his


Calming artworks in soft colours adorn the walls of a High Dependency Unit in Leeds. Dan Savage said: “Research has shown that post-operative patients benefit from more soothing artwork while convalescing.”


26 THE NETWORK January 2016


clients to create an open exchange of ideas, he ‘adopts a collaborative approach involving service-users, architects, and client teams – from planning to project completion’. Over the past 10 years, he has delivered 24 art schemes for NHS Trusts and hospices, and a further 11 public art schemes for local authorities, educational establishments, and commercial clients, totalling over £850,000 in value. He was a Building Better Healthcare Award winner in 2011, 2012, and 2014. He says his artistic style is ‘characterised by the use of striking hand-drawn graphics, an emphasis on the natural environment, and the use of innovative materials’.





All photos courtesy of Dan Savage.


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