A fresh approach

An exploration of how colour and artwork are being incorporated into surface materials to enhance health and care settings.

Hospital arts is no longer just about paintings on walls

As the positive healing impact of the arts is more widely recognised, arts programmes are becoming increasingly diverse, taking in a wide range of mediums – from sculptures, installations and murals, to performance and participatory arts.

Manufacturers of building materials, particularly surfaces products, are getting on board and creating products that can incorporate artwork. For example flooring, wall and ceiling panels, and doors and windows.

“More than ever healthcare interiors are being designed for more than just functionality. More focus is being put on helping patients and their families feel at ease by creating a welcoming environment” said a spokesman for Polyflor.


Polyflor’s Palettone range
Polyflor's range offers more colour and more choice than ever before.

“With 50 contemporary shades to choose from, flooring can be used to enhance any interior while still providing the performance and ease of maintenance required in healthcare environments.” 

Younique system by Formica group
A personalised, more patient-friendly environment is created by integrating patterns, logos, photographs and bespoke designs directly onto doors, walls and even furniture to create a personalised, more patient-friendly environment.

Case study

Specialist healthcare arts charity Artfelt commissioned Leah Bartholomew to work on PACT and Westfield Health Oncology and Haematology Centre - a recently opened regional centre for children’s cancer treatment at Sheffield Children’s Hospital Centre.

Bartholomew’s work includes nature-inspired wall-based prints utilising Formica Laminate and bonded to the doors provided by supplier Doorpac.

Nina Bailey, UK design manager at Formica Group, explains: “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 to sophisticated palettes and bold colours.

“There’s an increasing understanding that these places need to be both memorable and uplifting and designers and hospital administrators are waking up to both the navigational and mood enhancing power of colour.

“In places where patients linger, 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 move on quickly such as corridors and waiting rooms, healthcare designers are bringing in much-bolder colours such as citrus brights, which can add energy to a space and provide visual wayfinding.


Biophilic interior design

Acrovyn By Design
Construction Specialties (CS) has also integrated artworks into its products, with its Acrovyn By Design bespoke wall covering used during the refurbishment of Fremantle Court nursing home in Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury.

This innovative system enables designers to incorporate graphics, patterns, and photography behind a layer of clear, impact-resistant Acrovyn Sheet to ensure walls remain damage free and easy to clean.

A summery wall montage – which was selected in conjunction with residents – features a white garden fence, pink roses, and purple salvias. It is an example of biophilic interior design.

CS also supplied Wallsheen, a durable wall and ceiling coating, tinted in a colour complementing the imagery.

Armstrong Ceilings
Armstrong Ceilings recently supplied acoustic ceilings featuring artwork and imagery for the Ocean Unit, an oncology day facility at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

The BioGuard ceiling tiles feature anti-bacterial benefits and were finished with a coating of sky scenes in the recovery bay for older children, a school of fish swimming down a river in the reception/waiting area corridor, and a shoal of fish in a small treatment room.

Forbo Flooring
Colourful designs and artwork can be seen on floors in many hospitals and health centres across the UK and worldwide, both for aesthetics and to aid with wayfinding in large buildings.

Sharron Kapellar, national framework manager at Forbo Flooring Systems, said, “Colour and decorative patterns in floor coverings make a healthcare building look attractive but also aid stimulation, relaxation and navigation, as well as have an influence on a patient’s healing process.

“And, in children’s wards, in particular, vivid floor designs can help to create a positive and uplifting environment.”

Forbo’s Sphera homogeneous vinyl range can be cut into shapes to create striking bespoke designs. This is particularly popular for hospitals that want to adopt themes, such as at Glan Clywd Hospital, where sheets were hand cut into butterfly designs in an array of calming colours for the mother and baby unit.

Altro products
Altro products were recently used in the paediatric A&E unit and stroke facility at Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex.

In the specialist stroke unit Altro Serenade acoustic smooth flooring was installed, with large nature scenes reproduced onto Altro Whiterock Digiclad to create a patient-centred biophilic design. The gym walls have images of a bluebell wood in Altro Whiterock Digiclad. And, in the bed bays, a wildflower meadow runs along the entire wall above the bedheads.

Christopher Knight, the hospital’s capital projects manager, said: “Using beautiful, natural images to help relax and reassure patients has proved wonderfully calming for them, and we can see a real difference in behaviour.

“Staff are also thrilled with the new spaces. Working in an environment that’s colourful, friendly, and warm has such an impact.”

And architect and healthcare specialist interior designer, Georgia Burt, of GBS Health, who worked on the A&E project, added, “Being in hospital can be an upsetting and frightening experience for everyone, but especially for children.

“The interior space can have such a powerful effect on how they feel, and using the right designs, colours and materials will set the scene from the moment a child enters the space.

“We incorporated images and ideas into the space that children would recognise, to help them feel at home.

“The Hillingdon Trail is a very familiar walk locally and features some great characters and animals, such as a fox and owl. A large trail map in the reception leads a series of designs for the wards and cubicles using these characters.”

GSky Plant Systems
The Versa Wall indoor green wall system by GSky Plant Systems adds sustainable design to interior spaces at any scale.

Engineered with a unique tray design for simplified installation and maintenance – plus higher water efficiency – it is a versatile and long-lasting green solution, bringing biophilic benefits to healthcare spaces.

GSky has already installed the system in medical facilities overseas, including at the Hudson Spine & Pain Medicine clinic in New York and in the staff café at Park Nicolette Methodist Hospital in Minneapolis, and is now seeing more interest from the UK.


P+HS architects

P+HS architects worked with Kingsway Doors to design a new kind of door set for mental health environments.

The brief was to create a door and wall panel product specific to the needs of both staff and patients.

The resulting panel includes a therapeutic, interactive and personalised arts panel with integrated mood lighting, enabling patients to communicate their emotions through coloured light from within their bedrooms.

Plants are left out of many healthcare environments in the UK due to infection concerns. But these panels can include real or lifelike plants, bringing biophilia to communal circulation areas and using the known calming impact of nature to enhance the healing environment.

Set against a white backdrop, the lighting and the plants are clearly visible and the white writeable surface gives service users an opportunity to personalise their environment with, for example, their name or a positive message.

A balancing act

A spokesman for P+HS Architects said: “Balancing the unique requirements of mental healthcare environments is a design challenge.

“Robustness, security and safety aren’t readily compatible with the ‘softer’ elements of design which enhance surroundings for patients and staff - homeliness, creative stimulation and personalisation.

“In recent years however, design has improved exponentially with colour, light, artwork and outdoor space becoming the new norm as the role of these elements is acknowledged in creating truly-therapeutic and healing environments.” www.artfelt.co.uk 

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