Work Case Studies Dignified Spaces

An exercise in logistics - in addition to extensive design work I tracked timelines and communications carefully.

The new NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s (NHSGGC) New South Glasgow Hospitals (NSGH) were built with a fully integrated art strategy. Art and Design consultancy Ginkgo managed several projects for the site that aimed to enhance the environment for patients and relatives. I contributed to two of these projects: 100 Flowers and Dignified Spaces.

As commissioned artist for the Dignified Spaces project I designed furniture fabric and wall coverings for selected rooms within the NSGH hospital complex—the ‘Quiet Rooms’. The work was created from imagery produced as part of a community engagement process devised and facilitated by the lead artist for the project Alex Hamilton. The imagery for all the surface patterns was taken from cyanotype prints of plants produced by participants of Hamilton’s community engagement workshops. The first step was to isolate and collate image elements from these prints.

Imagery created by participants of community engagement workshops devised by lead artist Alex Hamilton.

The prints were beautiful in themselves but I had been commissioned to develop repeat surface patterns and this necessitated the isolation of elements from the workshop imagery that could then be reconfigured in a number of different ways–one of the challenges was to establish which direction to take when faced with infinite options.

As this was a commission my designs for the upholstery fabric and wall coverings were guided by the lead artist’s vision for the ‘Quiet Rooms’. We agreed to aim for something that echoed domestic interiors. I wanted to develop fairly calm and quiet patterns with small punches of brighter colour for the walls and something low-key for the furniture. Biophilic design–design that connects us with nature–was a guiding principle throughout and I was keen to keep the plant imagery 'life-sized'.

It was necessary to develop surface patterns that would work in tandem with pre-defined colour schemes and varying artwork.

Initially the brief specified five rooms for Dignified Spaces treatment but the project later expanded to nineteen rooms. The layout, colour scheme, artwork and floor coverings varied with each room. One of the greatest challenges of the project was to create a small number of patterns that would work in many different environments. I aimed for designs that would sit well with all that Hamilton was planning to include in the rooms –the furniture, lighting and artwork–as well as the existing colour schemes – it felt important that the overall ambience did not become too busy.

Developing designs that would work in many different environments–more spreadsheets.

This was particularly important for the upholstery fabric. I was to create just one pattern in one colourway that would be used in all nineteen rooms. We had a limited colour palette to choose from as we had to use fabrics that would meet the requisite infection control criteria as well as being sufficiently hardwearing. Fabric production company Panaz turned our final design into a suitable material that was then used by furniture company Teal to upholster chairs selected from their existing seating range and I'm grateful to both Teal and Panaz for their patience and co-operation.

Detail from one of our two final colourway options for the upholstery fabric. ©Nicola Murray & Alex Hamilton   

Working on Dignified Spaces gave me a fascinating insight into the many factors that need to be considered when creating work for a healthcare setting. The project provided me with a number of interesting technical and logistical challenges and valuable lessons in working to commission. I was glad to be involved in work that will hopefully make a difference (however small) to people in difficult circumstances at NSGH who are in need of a quiet space to take time out.

Since the project was completed the Dignified Spaces furniture has proved such a success that it has been procured for other areas around the hospital. ArtinScotland TV made a short film about the project where you can see the final fabric design in situ along with some of the five final wallpaper designs.