RHSC+DCN: Art + Therapeutic Design




ARCHITECTURE: Low Cost Project Schemes Under 200k


Dress for the Weather


Ginkgo Projects + NHS Lothian


Our brief for a ‘Therapeutic Art and Design Strategy’, developed by Ginkgo Projects and NHS Lothian, asked to enhance a series of key spaces within the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh (designed by HLM architects). The Interview Rooms, Sitting Rooms, Waiting Areas and Drop-in Centre all aim to provide distraction and relief from the clinical environment. 

To fully understand who and what we were designing for we took long walks with nursing staff through the hospital and spent time at the Drop-in Centre meeting children and families. As a key element of the project engagement we organised walks outwith the hospital, taking patients, families and staff on journeys through the city and beyond. We collected objects and stories that would weave their way into the design work while also providing surprise and change of routine for many people involved.

The Interview Rooms are where patient’s families receive news of their health, good or bad. However, in the previous hospital we saw these rooms crammed with overspill furniture from elsewhere. We wanted to avoid this happening again and were interested in a heavy object that could structure the room and also to act as a psychological weight - something to focus on while having a difficult conversation.  This led to the design of the ‘Anchor Table’ range with snaking tubular steel legs and jesmonite terrazzo tops using aggregate collected on walks with staff and patients. This aggregate included orange pebbles from North Berwick beach and stones from Craigmillar Park as well as slate and pebbles from loch side beaches. 

The Drop-in Centre provides a vital service for families with children in hospital by providing respite - like a mini Maggie’s Centre. Moving to a new location was a sensitive issue for many of the children who had grown to love the existing space. With this in mind we ran a series of screen-printing workshops in collaboration with Bespoke Atelier. From the children’s initial prints BA developed a repeat pattern that was screen printed by hand on to plywood to form two storage and seating walls and a ‘wallpaper’ of stories that could act as a point of continuity between the old and new space. 

This sensitivity to and involvement of patients and NHS staff in both the concept and fabrication of the design work has developed strong relationships between the work and the end users.