Opened to patients in spring 2009, The Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) is designed to be a regional centre of excellence for cardiac care. In 2007, specialist arts in healthcare consultants, Willis Newson were commissioned by UH Bristol to deliver a public art strategy for the new building, in collaboration with the project’s architects and the Trust’s P21 partners, Laing O’Rourke.
Working closely with University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol), project architects Coda, and the builders Laing O’Rourke, Willis Newson managed the development of a public art strategy for the new building. Eight stunning integrated artworks are the result. These range from a suspended sculpture in the atrium and an entrance lighting commission, to works for the ceilings of patient bed lifts. The programme aimed to support the patient’s journey through the building and to create a sense of local ownership and pride. The artworks contribute to wellbeing by making the hospital environment feel less institutional and clinical, but no less functional. This project won the Building Better Healthcare Award for the Best Use of Visual Art in Healthcare 2009.
Wave - an entrance lighting piece by Jo Fairfax – highlights the approach to the building – which is tucked away and not obvious until you are nearly upon it – and welcomes people arriving at the main entrance. It references the pulse of the heart with a rippling laminate framework and thousands of fibre-optic strands which light up in coloured waves.
The Queen’s Courtyard is an internal courtyard visible on the approach to the main reception and from within the building’s main atrium. Walter Jack was asked to add interest to this space and to screen the view of the façade beyond. In response he created Endless Rings – a series of seven suspended sculptures made of powder-coated aluminium. Each is a ring of tetrahedra which can be ‘rolled’ to create an endlessly opening and closing aperture. Each of the seven rings is set at a different point in the ‘rolling’ cycle.
Working closely with hospital porters to develop the theme for her work, Marion Brandis created artworks for the ceilings of the patient bed lifts and the walls of the lift lobbies. These reassure, calm and distract patients on their journey between wards and treatment areas.
Other artworks include Jan Blake and Rob Olins’ suspended sculpture Lifeboat, forms a striking focal point within the main atrium to the building, a metaphor for life it contrasts fragility with the strength and magic of its segmented construction. Roso Studios’ surface treatment images enhance the outpatients’ reception desk and a feature wall. Linda Schwab’s exterior wallworks evoke the fluid, lacy edge of a tree canopy and form a series relating to the theme of ‘flow’.
Willis Newson is a leading Bristol-based independent arts consultancy specialising in creative approaches to improving health and wellbeing. It develops public art strategies for new builds and refurbishments, develops and manages public art plans and public engagement programmes, delivers training for artists and performers in healthcare settings and provides advice and guidance on the design and implementation of projects to promote healthy environments and improve health and wellbeing.