British artist transforms children's hospital

Acclaimed artist, Morag Myerscough, creates bespoke bedrooms at Sheffield Children's Hospital

Morag Myerscough has created bespoke bedrooms for young patients at Sheffield Children’s Hospital

Acclaimed British designer, Morag Myerscough, has been drafted in to create bespoke bedrooms for young patients at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

The artist has brought a giant beachball to Old Street roundabout, a 10m-tall camera obscura to Mexico City square, and now she is brightening the wards of Sheffield Children’s Hospital by designing art schemes for 46 en-suite bedrooms and six multi-occupancy bays. The rooms are the latest in a series of commissions by Artfelt, the hospital charity’s arts programme, as part of its mission to transform patient spaces using art and design.

“I’d never done bedrooms before,” said Myerscough. “I loved the challenge.

Complex environments

“They’re really complex compared to corridors or more-public spaces - especially in a children’s hospital because you’re creating for patients who have various conditions and there are a lot more controls involved.”

The layout of the new rooms, designed by Avanti Architects, are in the hospital’s new wing and were created specifically to help make the clinical areas more comfortable.

By hiding plugs and wires away behind Formica panels, the rooms were given a softer, domestic touch.

Because she was working in a clinical area, everything Myerscough produced had to be totally sterile and easy to clean, which meant painting straight onto the walls wasn’t an option.

“The brief I was given was that whatever I wanted to do I would have to do on Formica,” she said.

“The wood grain on Formica is actually screen printed onto paper and then laminated.

“To get the really pure colours that I wanted, I had hoped to screen print my own pattern onto the existing wood grain.

The challenge

Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that because you can only screen print one or two colours on to the paper before it disintegrates.

“In the end we scanned the wood grain and then digitally printed the patterns, making sure it all matched up. Then we printed it onto paper and laminated it like normal Formica.

“We pushed the process to ensure we kept the warmth of the wood grain. We managed it – but it did take a year.”

Myerscough and Artfelt manager, Cat Powell, gathered statistics from patients to see which colours and patterns they preferred, and spoke to nurses to explore which clinical factors needed to be considered.

For Morag, this consultation process is one of the most-essential steps in her creation of public art.

“I’m not an expert. I’m not a nurse and I haven’t been a patient too often.

“When you’re working in hospitals it’s a very sensitive area.

“As an artist you can’t lose that vision of how things could be, but at the same time you need to take people’s concerns on board.

“It’s a collaboration, rather than a compromise.”

She added: “Although the rooms are for children, I didn’t want them to be childish because children of all different age groups will be staying in them.

“I also wanted to create somewhere parents would be happy to spend time too. It was just about making a bedroom that you felt good to be in.”

She designed four schemes which are rotated throughout the rooms, including a paler colourway specifically designed for children who have conditions like autism and may have an intolerance to bright patterns.

“I feel very excited about these bedrooms,” said Myerscough.

“Perhaps it’s a bit extreme to say that they are ground-breaking, but it does start a different dialogue about how bedrooms can be made for patients.

A positive outcome

“From the work I’ve done in healthcare I know that it’s phenomenally positive for people to have art in hospitals.

“Going into a grim and grey room isn’t going to make anybody feel good, but to go into a room that lets you know that people care about you and they’re thinking about you – it’s a no-brainer really.

“It makes people happier and more assured that everybody is concerned about them and wants them to get better.

It’s an amazing feeling knowing that the rooms will benefit patients at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

“I’ve previously done workshops with kids in hospitals and you can see how hard it can be for them and their parents.

“To make an environment that makes a difficult situation even remotely better, I can’t do work that’s more important than that really.”

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