It’s 8 a.m. on a bright Monday morning in Kansas City, Kansas, and people are starting to arrive at the University of Kansas Physicians Medical Office Building for appointments.
From the man who is seeing his orthopedic surgeon about a knee replacement to the woman who just found out she is pregnant—with twins—all patients at this new facility have one thing in common: They’re at a very unique medical center that places as much importance on the building’s artwork as it does on the doctors’ offices.
“The University of Kansas Hospital is fantastic when it comes to art,” says Ed Tranin, of Tranin Design Associates Inc. of Leawood, Kansas. “They understand the benefits of art and start every project with an art budget. Other organizations I’ve worked with form an art budget with whatever money is left at the end.”
Tranin worked with Cannon Design as interior architecture and art consultant on the $85 million medical office building that opened in July 2011. The 214,000-square-foot project required Tranin to select 300 pieces of original artwork for the six-story facility, so he turned to artist and colleague Henry Domke for nature images.
Domke also brings the added perspective of a retired family physician. “I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, so I know the effect that out-of-date interiors and faded poster art can have on patients, families, and even the staff,” he says. “I admit, when I built my practice building, I was unusual as a doctor in wanting appealing art images on the walls. But evidence-based design has since shown the value of nature imagery in a medical setting, so it’s very gratifying to see that others are finally giving art budgets the respect they deserve. And, most important, it’s great to see patients getting the kind of healing environments they need.”
Domke gives full credit to Tranin for making the MOB vision a reality. “Ed was as much of an artist on this as I was,” Domke says. “He did a lot of work up front with my images before even contacting me. He had all the images cropped to scale, and he spent countless hours poring over pictures on my website, thinking about color, shape, and emotional possibilities.“
The challenge: meshing nature with steel and glass
Teresa Neely, chief operations officer at University of Kansas Physicians, worked closely with the designers and Tranin to oversee the selection of furniture, interior fixtures—and artwork. “It’s a very contemporary building, with lots of glass and metal,” Neely says. “On the inside, we wanted it to be as environmentally friendly as possible with a lot of nature images.”
In fact, the building received LEED Silver certification.
One way Tranin harmonized the placement of artwork was to echo the exterior gleaming horizontal bands of metal and glass. “I wanted to take advantage of the horizontal lines in the interior to reinforce the horizontal lines on the exterior,” Tranin says.
This was especially important because all the patient waiting areas are on the outer edge of the building, near the windows. “There is so much glass that we even had to take into consideration how the artwork would look from the outside, especially at night, with all those windows lit up,” Tranin says.
His solution was to use multiple large canvas prints of a single subject matter, but to vary the perspective on each image, from extreme close-ups to natural landscapes. “I’d place six to eight images in a row and change it up a little by playing with scale. For example, having an image of rows of a cornfield and next to it a picture of a giant ear of corn. I think mixing faraway views and close-ups is unexpected and makes it interesting.”