‘A breath of hope’
Clowes Sculpture studio has been creating site-specific sculpture for 35 years. We work closely with architects, designers, and clients to integrate sculpture into an architectural context. Each design is created to compliment its environment and inspire its audience. Many of our sculptures are suspended works for atriums, foyers, stairwells, and dramatic spaces. We also develop wall sculpture and free-standing designs. We employ a wide array of materials: wood, metal, glass, and composites to fabricate our designs. Material choices are often influenced by the architect and client to highlight the relationship between the sculpture and its environment. We enjoy the challenges associated with creating integrated, dynamic sculpture for sophisticated architectural environments.
Developing artwork for healing environments is rewarding to us as artists and compassionate people. Art can be a pivotal factor in the healing process both for patients and families; we believe in the power of healing the body, spirit, and mind and are proud to be a part of this mission. Interestingly, our healthcare projects have been our most involved and successful collaborations; the insight and investment from our hospital clients and architects has fueled our creativity and enthusiasm, driving our work to new heights.
When we begin any project, significant time is spent meeting with the architects, clients, and visiting the site. To fully understand a healthcare organization, we make several site visits to absorb the space and the hospital culture. It is our experience that every region and facility has a unique identity and philosophy; it is important for us to understand this culture, to integrate the correct tone and comfort into our design.
A key goal for our work is to have it be friendly and inspiring to everyone at the facility. Doctors, nurses, administrators, patients, and their families should benefit in their own way from our designs. This level of engagement requires a solid understanding of many facets of the facility and organization. It is not unusual to spend 12 to 18 months designing a project. By the time we install a sculpture, we have a solid connection to the hospital, its mission, and the Architecture. Our work becomes an extension of the facility, bringing serenity, hope, and connectedness. Our most engaging projects are for healthcare facilities; by design, their function demands our most careful consideration, and it is our most rewarding work.
From first conversations until final installation, our project with St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, took two years (figure 1). We worked closely with Tom Bauman of Earl Swensson Associates—the project's architects—to understand the atrium, the finishes, and his vision for the space. Our ability to work closely with the architect throughout all phases of the project directly improved the quality of the sculpture.
“Guardian”, Clowes Sculpture's installation at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Courtesy of Clowes Sculpture.
The sculpture we developed for St. Vincent's is titled “Guardian”, and it is 23' high and 13' at its widest point. It is made of cherry wood, nickel silver rod, slumped and blown glass, and LED lights. The central sphere is “St. Vincent's purple” and glows from internal lighting. This sculpture is one of the most challenging our studio has produced. The gesture of the work, the flow of line, and fade of color is dramatic and the sculpture is stunning in the atrium.
One influence on our design was the remarkable way St. Vincent's integrated the growth of their facility with its art and Architecture. Careful planning with Earl Swensson Associates through years of growth led to flawless integration of the different wings. The use of repeated architectural themes bridged the differences of material and scale, and the vibrant artwork throughout the facility, though different in composition or style, was integrated well. We are honored to be a part of their fine collection.
Similarly, our project for the new Ambulatory Care Center at Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza in Houston (figure 2) also took two years from initial conversation until final installation. We began this project in collaboration with Charles White of Skyline Art Services in Houston. Charles guided us through the design process with WHR Architects and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, both in Houston. With Charles assistance, we designed and fabricated an atrium sculpture titled “Zephyr”.
“Zephyr”, Clowes Sculpture's installation at the new Ambulatory Care Center at Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza in Houston. George Craig Photography/Houston.
“Zephyr” is 14' high and 4' at its widest point. There are three individual elements to the sculpture: A formed aluminum element painted with marine grade finishes, a nickel silver rod element, and a painted central sphere. The elements nestle and balance together to create a beautiful composition.
It is clear that art does not simply ease the healing of patients. Doctors, nurses, and administrators have intense and demanding responsibilities to provide the best care for their patients. Working in a hospital that is beautiful, whose Architecture is inviting, whose ambience is soothing and contemplative, provides opportunity for renewal throughout the day. Happy healthcare workers are better equipped to serve the needs of those who depend upon them.
Art in healthcare environments is also helpful for visitors. Visiting a loved one in the hospital can be a difficult experience. A well- designed healthcare environment eases the visitors concern for their loved ones and may promote confidence in their loved ones' care.
More and more, Americans have integrated fine design into their lives. Art is often a part of our daily lives. Integrating art into healthcare environments makes time spent at a hospital less foreign and more comfortable. Art, Architecture, and design are parts of our lives. They are easily understood and yet individually experienced. They can provide a breath of hope and a focus to soothe both patient and visitor anxiety. HD