When those responsible for the Rush Transformation Project were deciding how best to build an outstanding, patient-centered healing facility at the new medical center, they knew it would require more than beautiful, clean, modern architecture and furnishings. They needed to find a way to create an environment that alleviates stress, which in turn promotes healing. But hospitals are hardly known as low-stress environments. However, art has an emotional component and has an ability to transform the experience of all who visit the facility.
The administration turned to H. Marion Art Consulting, an art consultancy specializing in art installations for healthcare facilities. The consultant was already known to Rush for its healing art installations in the campus’s orthopaedic and cancer centers.
Armed with the task of creating a plan that would reflect Chicago, Ill. as a world-class city, showcase the diverse cultures of the neighborhoods that the hospital serves and include Midwestern organic imagery, the art consulting firm and licensed ASID, IIDA Interior Designer Pam Rosenberg set to work to identify the 1,400 artworks that would be installed in the 14-floor cutting-edge building designed by architects Perkins+Will.
The art concept had to start with the site. The curvilinear mid century 14-story tower, houses 304 patient rooms, and includes a floor dedicated to labor and delivery rooms, neonatal ICU. All patient rooms have a city view with natural light and sit above the state-of-the-art “interventional platform” comprised of the ED, radiology operating and treatment rooms. The selection and placement of art throughout the floors and departments was carefully orchestrated to create a thread of consistency throughout the entire hospital as well as maintain sensibility to each individual department’s art requirements. All placements work with signage and the architecture.
The team worked closely with the Executive Art Coordinating Group, consisting of five individuals representing upper management, purchasing, philanthropy, the board of trustees and Office of Transformation.
Presenting options, processing comments and securing signoff approvals were done efficiently through the use of an online art portal. The portal was also utilized to engage user groups throughout the hospital.
Sub art committees were formed, and one representative from each departmental unit disseminated the concepts to coworkers and provided feedback within the context of the approved design framework. These user groups shared personal preferences and provided keen insights on how art selection and placement can enhance family and patent experiences within the department.
“Not everyone is going to love every art piece, but if they’re engaged in the correct way, we’re able to secure a higher level of employee satisfaction,” said H. Marion Art Consulting President Jan Marion. “The care providers are looking at the art more often than anyone, so their buy-in is vital.”
The art selected and installed spans a wide range of media and an emphasis was placed on including local artists. The artworks reflect not only the life of the nearby neighborhoods and vibrant city, but also the surrounding landscapes and natural imagery.
“Imagine a big box store: each one looks identical no matter what part of the country they are in,” Marion said. “That’s precisely what we wanted to avoid. This approach helps patients and families feel that the facility has a distinctive character specific to the regional culture and landscape, setting it apart from other area healthcare institutions.”
The towering 30’ x 20’ multi-panel photo installation in the four-story Brennan Entry Pavilion welcomes visitors to the new ground floor entrance with a bird’s eye view of Chicago from the vantage point of the hospital. Artworks are installed everywhere in the building except the patients’ rooms.
“The art there [in patient rooms] is the city panorama,” Marion said. “Huge glass windows provide an unimpeded view in every room – it’s spectacular.”
Corridors and connector bridges lined with images of prairies, streams, trees and rock formations, as well as photographic collages of imagery, provide peaceful continuity and flow while moving through the space. Contemporary images are peppered in as well.
Special consideration was given to the family lounge areas of each floor, where patients and visitors gather to relax together.
A few lounges are themed to the particular department, such as pediatrics, which includes brightly colored children’s art and sculptures on the walls of figures climbing ropes. Art in the labor and delivery areas are more feminine in colors and imagery. The orthopaedic surgery area features a series of kinetic art such as an X-ray of a hand grasping a ball, about to pitch.
To create a sense of harmony and uniformity of design finishes, standardized matting and framing was used throughout, choosing simple, straight-edged wooden frames in stained walnut and brushed silver with off-white double matting to display most of the pieces. The hardwood frames were milled regionally in Wisconsin.
Marion researched the hospital archives in an effort to pay homage to the hospital’s more than 170-year history. In existence longer than any other healthcare institution in the city, it received its charter two days before the city of Chicago was incorporated. From his research, he created an engrossing installation of posters advertising the Women’s Board Fashion Show, from its inception in the 1920s to present, fittingly installed beside the entrance to the Women’s Board Gift Shop. He also created a photo series of an ornate Louis Sullivan-era staircase in the neighboring Jones building, which is scheduled for demolition.
A more contemporary series is located near the employees’ cantina: photos and prints of beloved local eateries, including the Billy Goat, Demon Dogs, Super Dog and Margie’s, line the corridor, culminating in a giant fork-and-spoon sculpture suspended over the tray pick up.
“I’m proud of the project, Marion said. “I feel good about achieving the client’s objective, and being able to do it within budget. We’ve gotten tremendous feedback from the administration, user groups and staff. Now, we look forward to hearing from the patients.”