Studio Weave creates an interesting giant sized installation in what was once an awkward space and breathes fantasy into the children’s ward at one of London’s oldest hospitals.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London’s Bloomsbury area, has an ambitious multi-phased redevelopment program on the cards. The recently completed Morgan Stanley Clinical Building and the 1930s Southwood Building currently sit very close together. Phased out over a period of 15 years, it will involve tearing down the latter and replacing it with a public square.
When in place present and future clinical facilities will surround this open space, and their large, glazed windows will overlook the tree-lined lawn. But, the Southwood Building must continue its operations while the new buildings materialise around it.
The grassy, leafy plaza is the reality of the future; however, the present view for the children’s ward is a drab façade of the Southwood Building less than a couple of metres away from the windows, crawling with a network of pipes. There is enough evidence of the effect the surroundings have on recovery and the well-being of the sick. This in mind, the management at GOSH wanted an installation that would infuse the atmosphere with cheer and joy for their young patients.
The team at Studio Weave created a concept that would involve maximum effect with minimal changes, “Our aim for this project was to re-imagine the Southwood façade as the best version of itself, accepting and celebrating its qualities and oddities; rather than hiding what is difficult and creating something unique and site-specific.” Instead of ridding the brickwork of the pipes and other fixtures, they were integrated into the innovative design concept.
In their bid, the team rechristened the Southwood Building as the Lullaby Factory, a place that produced and delivered melodious lullabies to soothe young patients. The designers were clear that the physical transformation of the façadeshould be such that would inspire belief that lullabies were indeed being manufactured within.
The execution of the plan was tough. The site was irregular, over 30 metres in length but at a distance of only one metre from the Southwood building in some places. The architects had to ensure that their installation was built only on the Southwood façade without touching the alley below or the new wards around it.
To keep the cost down, reclaimed and bespoke components were used to create the various components of the structure. Some of the material was also procured from the hospital’s old boiler house that was being dismantled.
The result is a ten-storey high quirky creation in the secret space, hidden from the outside world and visible only from within the hospital. A large cylindrical chamber fitted with guages and valves is where the melodies are created. Bronze and copper coloured pipes run the length and breadth of the walls to transport music to the 60 large and small trumpets clustered on the surface and poised to pour out sweet sounds. The design adheres to a metallic colour palette and steers away from the cliched splash of bright colours typically associated with children’s projects.
“Aesthetically, the Lullaby Factory is a mix of an exciting and romantic vision of the music industry, and the highly crafted beauty and complexity of musical instruments,” state Studio Weave. But, the aesthetic change was only one aspect of the team’s vision. They wanted the Factory to actually ‘create’ sound. Composer and sound artist Jessica Curry was enlisted to compose a lullaby specifically for this project. This melody can be heard either through the listening pipes next to the hospital canteen or by tuning into the designated frequency on the radio. The playful setting is reminsicent of the many surreal locales created in popular British literary classics.
The Studio Weave philosophy pivots around the site of the project. They believe in unearthing the inherent characteristics of the space and aligning them with their concept. At the Lullaby Factory, the Studio has applied its viewpoint to create a fantastical landscape that engages the attention of the patients, visitors and hospital staff.
Within a few days of the opening of the Lullaby Factory, unusual sightings were reported. Some children insisted that they had spotted Peter Pan hiding behind the curtains blowing fairy dust, his pointy shoes peeking out from under them. Others vowed they saw Mary Poppins breeze by, her duck-head umbrella in hand. Even though there has been no evidence to prove these claims, nobody is trying very hard to not believe!
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs by Studio Weave