Publish date: 01 August 2022

UCLH is committed to not only treat patients’ illnesses but to provide an environment and an experience which contributes to patients’ general wellbeing.

This is why the new Grafton Way Building, officially opened by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales earlier this year, contains more than 100 pieces of art across its nine clinical floors.

Commissioned during construction, the pieces are integral to the fabric of the building. Reflecting the clinical services within the building, some of the pieces feature patients with blood disorders, their relatives and clinical teams.

UCLH arts curator Guy Noble, said: “Evidence demonstrates that views and experiences of nature can improve patient recovery rates and wellbeing. Art can ease anxiety and improve the overall experience of being in a healthcare environment for both patients and staff.”

“It has been a privilege to work with colleagues, artists and contractors to ensure that art is a significant part of the development of this wonderful new hospital building.”

Pieces include a two-part installation by Dryden Goodwin in the building’s five-storey atrium, entitled Held and Sensed. They are a multifaceted installation, exploring the human interaction at the heart of critical and long-term haematology care. Six translucent textile banners, 60 delicate watercolour studies and a 33-hour and 33-minute film of the watercolours being created come together to create a diverting and uplifting spectacle of shared endeavour and support.

In patient bedrooms, staff areas and waiting rooms, there are 89 bespoke pieces of art by Alex Echo that use abstracted, pixelated images of forests, lakes, skies, flowers and beaches to offer an alternative view and distraction.

Artists Lucy Gough and Eloise Renouf created colourful and restful designs for the artworks in the critical care areas.

At the entrance to the imaging department there is an oil painting, donated by Sara Burns, created by John Keane on rain forest timber salvaged from an illegal consignment of wood from Brazil intercepted by Greenpeace.

Other artworks include a stained-glass design based on the gulf stream and the journey of a turtle by Hilary Ruxton in the basement reception and a backlit Corian in the Macmillan Living Room, depicting willow leaves and branches that change throughout the day to reflect the passing of the day and support staff and patient circadian rhythms. This was created by Art in Site.

Media and new technology has also been used to uplift the patients’ experience of the building. Moving image projections and video paintings by Amazing Interactives and Open Gallery have been installed in patient waiting areas, in the Proton Beam Therapy area and also in the Oasis room, a multi-faith room for use by patients and staff for peace, quiet and meditation.

On the roof of the building, where the terraces are planted with medicinal plants and shrubs to  provide a peaceful setting for patients to recuperate, there are three sculpted sleeping stone animals — a fox, a squirrel and a duck — created by Broadbent Studio.

Thalassaemia patients Mark Matharu and his twin sister Ellen Hensley feature in Dryden Goodwin’s artworks. Speaking about the experience, Mark said: “I was overwhelmed by the final image of me and my place within the artwork. I sat for a long time looking at it. I think Dryden captured me perfectly.”

Ellen said: “When I saw the final image of myself for the first time I was very emotional. At first I was not sure if it looked like me, but it did. When I saw my brother’s final image I was blown away. Dryden had really captured the essence of him. The installation is amazing! I have never seen anything like it before. I am pleased to have been asked to be part of it. My image will be there long after I am gone.”

The environmental and art enhancements were made possible by many generous donations including those from UCLH Charity (including Cancer Fund, Fight for Life and Haematology Cancer Care), Darren Baggett, Nicolas Cowell and Friends, Family of Paul Spacey, AJ Chawal, The Steel Charitable Trust and The Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund.

UCLH Charity’s head of charitable giving, Carol Haraldsson, said: “So much thought has gone into making every space in the Grafton Way Building beautiful and therapeutic. We are so grateful to our supporters and everyone who has donated and, of course, all the artists who have made this happen.”

Throughout the building, colours, motifs, artwork, even patterns on the floor, are intended to evoke nature and the therapeutic role it has in supporting recovery.

The art in the Grafton Way Building won the 2021 European Healthcare Design Award in the Art and Interior Design category and UCLH and Dryden Goodwin won the 2021 Building Better Healthcare for Best Collaborative Art Project.

See our online art gallery here