Expressing gratitude in glass
There are so many healthcare institutions in this country that are the product of long-standing dreams backed by enormous goodwill and philanthropic support that it's appropriate to create an art piece for a healthcare facility that not only celebrates this, but also serves as an architectural enhancement in its own right. To do this, we are creating pieces in crystal that are carved and sculpted as a piece by a monument maker or stonecutter would be. We have discovered that we can deep-carve letters and etch images into the crystal that can be side-lit with LED lighting built into the edges of the crystal. The effect is a glowing, holographic look.
The technique involves “chisel-cutting” perfectly V-shaped letters deep into the crystal—for example, as much as three-quarters of an inch into inch-thick crystal. (Crystal must be used rather than standard glass, because the latter produces a murky greenish appearance; lighting from side-mounted LED lighting penetrates crystal as much as eight feet or more.) The carving involves very careful and attentive handwork that allows no mistakes—glass putty, unfortunately, hasn't been invented yet.
The LED lighting system, which we adopted after experimenting with neon, fiberoptics, and other light sources, can be done in colors and can also be used to enhance etched-in photographic images. We can then layer these with the lettering surface, making the piece three-dimensional.
Donor recognition has had a bad rap with some architects, but administrators do take an active interest in it and have asked facility designers to provide the space, weight support, and electrical systems necessary for this glass sculpture approach. Facilities are not only rewarding their donors in this way, but they are also using these pieces to highlight mission statements and historic information. For this reason, our pieces are becoming known for interpreting the values of an institution and, in essence, becoming a “voice”—and a very effective public relations statement to patients and visitors as they enter the building. HD
Healthcare Design 2003 November;3(4):111-112