‘What you see is what you get'
This was the case with Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. The design team of NBBJ had to work with existing HVAC units that would be visible to a high-traffic area. The newly completed southeast addition's major connector to the existing hospital has a massive hallway directly past the main entry reception area, designed for patients and their families to congregate and to meet with doctors, nurses, and staff. The hallway has 30-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows separated by three levels of metal panes that run the length of the 60-foot hallway. The space is serene, with large sofas, chairs, and tables for maximum comfort. While very beautiful and dramatic, there are several outdoor HVAC units that could be seen down the long hallway, detracting from the designer's vision and intention for an environment of health and comfort.
Charles White, principal of Skyline Art Services, selected Dallas-based artist Jonathan Brown to create a piece that would work with the signature art program Skyline Art Services designed for the hospital, while hiding the unsightly HVAC units. White provided images of the construction site and window placement in relation to the outdoor facilities equipment. However, the true challenge was fully realized when Brown flew to Ohio to take measurements of the windows and study the space. “The excitement of designing this piece to serve two purposes, beauty and utility, was overwhelming” Brown says. “My initial instincts were my best-create a work through which natural light filters, while diverting viewers from the HVAC units on the other side of the glass. This was going to be an amazing challenge with an amazing result.”
Brown hand-cut strips of stained glass in a variety of lengths and widths. He then used a mix of clear resin to place the strips in a composition for each of the 18 clear acrylic panels. After the panels dried, Brown poured a second coat of resin to seal the glass and to build a smooth top coat. The panels were installed directly inside the metal frames of the windows at the hospital.
Another example of how art can mask industrial spaces is to actually use the equipment in the piece. In Houston, Memorial Hermann Hospital wanted to create an indoor park for families who aren't capable of going outside. Once again, Brown was called upon by Skyline Art Services. “We discussed several ideas to bring the vision to life. We thought of how many young patients couldn't be in an outdoor environment, leading us to build five tree sculptures, creating an allergen-reduced space,” Brown says. What resulted was an entire park-like setting with life-sized Hydrocal tree sculptures.
Brown was already challenged with two utilitarian design issues. “The largest tree is holding an ugly secret-a concrete, load-bearing pillar. It was a real eyesore, so I started there, sculpting a tree around the concrete. It came out beautifully,” he says.
Next, the space where the park was planned had several large HVAC vents near the ceiling on the sides of the walls. Brown saw this as an opportunity to utilize the circulation of air as a creative advantage.
“I was thrilled with the final result of suspending the discs. They did exactly what I wanted them to,” Brown says.
The concept and creation of the trees won Brown two awards. The American Society of Interior Designers Gulf Coast Chapter recognized him with a first place award for commercial interior design and the Construction Specification Institute honored him with its Excellence in Craftsmanship Award.
Jonathan Brown Art & Design specializes in commercial and residential spaces. Several of its projects are large-scale installations for healthcare facilities, corporate offices, hotels, outdoor environments, and private collections. HCD
Amy Fryer is a partner at Jonathan Brown Art & Design. For more information, please visit www.mosaicart.us. Healthcare Design 2011 May;11(5):71-72