Every floor has works of art that promise to take a patient's mind off his or her illness, at least temporarily. Robert Israel's kid-friendly animal sculptures include a 22-foot "Ostrich" and a winged "Cow Jumping Over the 28 Phases of the Moon." In patient rooms, Jim Boyd's window shade designs celebrate the Baltimore folk art tradition of painted screens. For a children's garden, Olin drew inspiration from "The Little Prince."
The largest single commission transformed the glass walls of the patient towers into works of public art. Bloomberg wanted to be sure the glass would be appropriately distinctive and reflective of the hospital's mission. Hopkins brought in New York artist Spencer Finch to work with Perkins + Will to help create the final design.
Finch designed a window pattern featuring 26 colors — mostly blues for the children's tower and greens for the adult tower, plus yellow, purple and gray. Finch selected his palette based on studies of paintings by the French Impressionist Claude Monet of his lily pond and gardens in Giverny, near Paris. Finch's focus on water can also be seen as a nod to Baltimore's waterfront in the distance.
Finch's composition has another distinguishing characteristic, a repeating design embedded within the glass, called a frit pattern. Finch generated a series of curved markings that suggest strokes of a paint brush — another reference to Monet. People inside the building can look through the "brush strokes" and see the city beyond. The effect is like standing in the middle of a just-shaken snow globe, or a shower of confetti. It takes some getting used to, but it shows how much the donor wanted a distinctive design and was willing to let an artist experiment to get it.
The risk with this sort of experimentation was that it could turn the towers into one-liners, objects that don't hold up well to repeated viewings, like so much patterned wallpaper. In this instance, the glass walls change in appearance over the course of the day, as Bloomberg wanted, depending on how sunlight hits them or clouds cast shadows over them.
Finch started with color combinations that were meant to be viewed on one scale — Monet's intricate paintings — and blew them up to a much larger scale, while exposing the glass to lighting and weather conditions over which he did not have complete control. On overcast or hazy days, the effect can be more somber than joyous, especially from a distance. At the same time, the colored walls signal that something new and noteworthy is going on inside, and hospitals can be both somber and joyful, places of death and life. To that extent, Finch's work does what it was meant to do.
Of course, Hopkins could commission all the fritted glass and flying cows it wants, but health care is only as good as the people who provide it. By developing such rich and enriching healing environments, Hopkins and its designers have created a place where the best in the business can flourish.
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