There’s a lot to be said for a room with a view, particularly when you’re peering out the window from a hospital bed, and even more especially if you’re a child checked in for an extended stay. At London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, a competition was launched to create an artwork in the "difficult" zone between the brick Southwood Building, which dates back to the 1930s and is set to be demolished in a little over a decade, and the adjacent glass-clad Morgan Stanley Clinical Building, which has introduced some truly remarkable interactive installations into its wards. In terms of site-specifics, this was a definite toughie. At 10 stories tall and with a mere meter-wide squeeze in spots, the strip of vertical space needed an incredibly clever fix.
London-based architecture practice Studio Weave approached its entry with signature irreverent spirit intact. The resulting Lullaby Factory is a complex system that draws the eye to follow it every which way, encouraging visual engagement as opposed to attempting to obscure the close quarters with some kind of trompe l’oell.
Piecing together the creative maze became an exercise in uniting a collection of seemingly disparate component parts. Spun metal and fabricated aluminum elements that mimic oversized phonograph horns and trumpet bells connect to pipes and pumps and industrial materials rescued from a boiler house in the process of being decommissioned. "Those were fun to choose," the firm’s Esme Fieldhouse tells Co.Design. The tight area seems to make the construction seem even more magical, and the cumulative effect is that it’s tough to parse what’s functional and what’s just fun. "We like that it’s not always obvious what was there before and what is new."
Studio Weave also conceived a truly lovely story that’s up on its site, complete with brilliant illustrations and narrative names like Fluentooting Whopper, Solilooting Plant, Hushadows, and Hahalickles. To accompany the physical installation, composer and sound artist Jessica Curry created a custom lullaby that can be heard through the tubes themselves, via a special ward-based radio station, or, lucky for us, right here. (To my ear, it’s a calming cross between a hymnal and holiday carol once it gets going.)
And it’s actually not the first time the playful firm has encouraged people to use its sense of hearing to experience a physical space; last year, they installed the Hear Heres at Kedleston Hall outside Derby in England, with each of the four man-made audio sculptures amplifying the surrounding sounds of nature. Maybe the next incarnation will figure a way to bring the aural pleasures of the outdoors inside.