No longer an afterthought: The emerging importance of art
When Dublin Methodist Hospital (DMH), a new 333,000-square-foot, 94-bed full-service hospital, opens in Dublin, Ohio, in January 2008, an artistic masterpiece will be unveiled that combines years of research and evidence-based design principles with a design that uses nature to push the limits of excellence in healthcare. Evidence-based design is demonstrated throughout the hospital, which is designated as a Pebble Project by The Center for Health Design. From the plentiful natural light and rooftop gardens to the spacious family rooms and greeters at the hospital doors, every detail was considered to improve the quality of healthcare—even the artwork.
“The importance of artwork as a positive distraction is well documented,” says Cheryl Herbert, president of DMH. “We felt artwork, together with other elements of evidence-based design, would contribute positively to the overall well-being of our patients, families, staff, and physicians.”
It was with this concept in mind that Herbert first approached Dr. Henry Domke's booth at a healthcare design conference in November of 2005. She immediately recognized the healing power of the artist's work and knew it was what she envisioned for OhioHealth's newest hospital. “One of our goals as a hospital was to bring nature, literally and figuratively, into the building,” Herbert says. “Henry's artwork accomplishes this.”
Domke, an artist known for creating nature art for healthcare settings, was a family physician in Jefferson City, Missouri, for 25 years. While he has retired from his career in medicine to pursue art full-time, his passion for healthcare continues through his art. His collection of work includes photographs of landscapes and nature found from coast to coast and internationally. “Having been a physician, I understand how dismal hospitals can be,” Domke says. “My goal as an artist is to find beauty in the ordinary and to create images that inspire and heal.”
Domke became involved with Karlsberger, the architect for the DMH project, early in the design process. One of the first architectural affiliates of The Center for Health Design, Karlsberger was using evidence-based design to not only provide an aesthetically appealing environment for patients and families, but to increase operational efficiency and to recruit and retain staff.
“Studies have shown that views of nature inspire healing,” says Char Davis, interior designer for Karlsberger. “While the design of Dublin Methodist Hospital includes a variety of natural elements such as courtyards and a three-story water feature in the hospital atrium, Domke's artwork was an integral part of the design and further established the connection with nature. Even the color palette was inspired by nature and was intentionally meant to serve as a backdrop for the art.”
Rosalyn Cama, president of CAMA, Inc. in New Haven, Connecticut and interior design consultant on this project adds, “It was more than decorating walls, but rather determining how to further this continuum of nature. It was obvious to use Henry's art.”
The design team worked exclusively with Domke to identify images for the hospital. In addition to featuring interesting representations of nature, Herbert requested that the images portray plants and animals indigenous to Ohio and even the city of Dublin. Domke hired a botanist to assist with the selection process. The result was enough images to fill an entire floor of the hospital. Herbert also requested that landscape scenes be featured in each of the patient rooms and personally reviewed each one.
“Landscapes produce some of the most positive results in terms of their connection to recovery times,” Herbert said. “While Henry has so many wonderful photos of nature, we chose the landscapes for the patient rooms so that people could ‘lose themselves’ in the photographs.”
Close-up images of birds, flowers, and other elements of nature can be found throughout the public areas of the hospital. With Domke's consent, Davis took the artist's original images and spliced them to create large murals on the walls of the hospital—the largest stretching four feet tall and 20 feet wide. While many artists would not approve of a designer modifying their work, Domke's flexibility was key to the successful collaboration.
“The designers were remarkably creative in how they took my work, removed pieces from it, repeated it, rotated it and zoomed in on it,” Domke says. “It made the images a lot more fun and let me see my own work with new eyes.”
Perhaps equally as important as choosing the images was determining their placement. It was important to allocate the artwork and carry the nature theme throughout the hospital. The artwork also aids in wayfinding and creates a memorable journey to and from destinations. “We didn't want to put a huge, expensive piece in the hospital atrium and forget about the rest of the facility,” Davis says. “There is no front of house/back of house. We tried to make it a healing environment throughout the building, and the art collection allowed us to do that.”
All of Domke's images used in DMH are printed on canvas, which is more textual and gives the hospital a rich, gallery feel. Canvas also eliminates the need for a glass overlay, thereby reducing glare, while still allowing for cleaning and sanitation.
With 150 canvas prints throughout the hospital, Domke says this is one of the largest installations of his work to date: “Having my art throughout the hospital is an honor, but what's most exciting is being part of such an inspired vision.”
Herbert points out that the success of this project would not have been possible without collaboration. Whether it was OhioHealth's drive to build a hospital that exemplifies evidence-based design, the design team's ability to create a nature-focused template in which this could happen, or Domke's talents as a photographer to capture images that inspire healing—they are all artists.
“The outcome is amazing when a team shares a unified vision,” Herbert says. “In this case, our vision was to use nature and art to create a better environment for the people of the hospital and that's just what we did.” HD
Allison Ollanketo is Marketing Coordinator for Karlsberger, a Columbus, Ohio-based design firm. For more information, visit
Cara Ramsay Elsas is Marketing Director for Henry Domke Fine Art. For more information on Henry Domke Fine Art, visit
http://www.henry domke.com, or visit Henry Domke's blog at
For more information on Dublin Methodist Hospital, visit http://www.ohio health.com/homedublin.cfm?id=404. To comment on this article, visit http://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com.