Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is halfway through an ambitious 40-year programme of redevelopment that began in the early 1990s. Central to the masterplan is the aspiration to deliver world-class healthcare environments. Art is key to achieving this, delivered through a dedicated arts team working closely with colleagues across the Trust. Site-responsive art contributes to creating uplifting environments, providing engaging, playful and thought-provoking experiences for patients, families, visitors and staff.
The award-winning Zayed Centre for Research (ZCR) is an excellent recent example of how GOSH Arts worked closely with the architects, design team and clinical champions to commission a programme of artworks that is site-responsive. The Centre brings together world-class scientific and clinical expertise and a unique patient population, with centralised technologies and equipment.
The building, by architects Stanton Williams, was designed to create a dynamic integrated space enabling scientists and doctors to work side by side to discover and deliver new and better treatments.
The art strategy responded to the design of the building and integrated art installations support the building's aspiration to develop a space that facilitates chance encounters and exchanges between researchers and clinicians. Additionally, the intention for the art commissions was to convey the importance of research into rare diseases by engaging the building users creatively. The art programme is a celebration of the collaborative and visionary nature of the Centre.
Random International's work Kinds of Life explores the human condition and invites active participation. The artists were commissioned to create a sculptural installation that references the human genome and brings to life the wonder and biological complexity of the individual. Kinds of Life is a moving sculpture that lives at the heart of the ZCR and sporadically engages with its visitors. Responding to its surrounding environment in real-time, the sculpture's behaviour changes continually.
Inspired by conversations with researchers at the Centre, Kinds of Life is intended as an exploration of how it might feel to share the world with non-human intelligence and what the fields of AI and evolutionary biology can learn from one another. Together, the sculpture and the Centre reflect the idea of curiosity leading to discovery.
Mark Titchner works across a range of media and he uses found texts to explore shared values and beliefs. His artwork, Together We Can Do So Much, references the unique cross-platform approach to paediatric research and care that the Zayed Centre for Research will offer. The words of the title are featured in the eight-metre wood relief artwork and draw inspiration from a quote by Helen Keller, the renowned twentieth-century advocate for disability rights. The interconnected design features interweaving pathways to represent the collaborative vision for the building.
During her time as artist-in-resident at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Dana Al Mazrouei led a number of creative workshops that explored the theme of genetics with children, young people and their families. Her residency has inspired an artwork for the courtyard garden – The Same and Different – a series of tactile, circular artworks which represent a visualisation of a genome. Each artwork uses the same circular shape with an individual pattern and combination of colours which symbolise the similarity but uniqueness of a human genome.
In addition to being responsive to Great Ormond Street Hospital and its users, GOSH Arts strives to be responsive to our wider context and the world around us. GOSH is the first hospital in London to declare a climate emergency and is making determined steps to change practices and behaviours that will make a positive impact on the environment.
In parallel, GOSH Arts is highlighting the importance of nature and its positive impact on health and wellbeing by dedicating our 2021 programme to the theme of biophilia. Through our programming and commissions, we will seek to find new innovative ways to bring nature into the hospital setting.
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Jason Bruges' Nature Trail (2019) creates an immersive woodland scene as a playful way to calm and distract patients on their way to surgery. Using digital technology within the wallpaper along the corridors, animated woodland creatures such as deer, hedgehogs and birds can be seen emerging in the clearings between the trees to accompany children on their journey to theatre.
Similarly linking technology with the natural world, Sister Arrow's The Wandering Meadow (2018) is a dual-screen online digital work that is programmed to reflect the real-time seasonal conditions external to the hospital. The result is an evolving work that mirrors the flora and fauna outside in their various states of seasonal change.
Henna Nadeem and Shona Illingworths' installation and sound piece The Choral Forest (2012) creates a colourful abstracted forest scene accompanied by bird song and ambient sounds in the entrance to the Lagoon, GOSH's canteen for staff and families. This immersive installation provides a respite from clinical spaces and allows the visitor to be carried away by the sound of nature that is at once familiar yet incongruous to the setting.
GOSH's art collection of over 350 works includes many paintings, prints and photographs that reference the natural world directly or indirectly. GOSH will continue to build on the theme of biophilia as we develop an art strategy for the new Children's Cancer Centre at GOSH. Expected to open in 2025, the new building will transform the frontage and entrance to the hospital, allowing for exciting opportunities to commission site-specific artworks.
Equipped with the knowledge of the impact that nature has on physical and mental health, we will continue to commission artwork that enhances and eases the experience of children and their families at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Kate Phillimore, Curator at Great Ormond Street Hospital