The installations are intended to entertain, surprise, and distract kids without depending on screens. The design team was required to utilize the Hospital’s themed floors from the original clinical building to the new tower, blending authentic Boston iconography—from puffins to harbors to swan boats—with scenes from the metro region recognizable to local and international guests alike. One of the floors features a map of the Boston subway, “The T”, and buttons kids can push to light up the routes. Hidden surprises appear throughout the floors, including a friendly lobster; Henry David Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond; and trail signs pointing to Mount Greylock, the Appalachian Trail, and the White Mountains.
The design requirements for this project called for a variety of special considerations and accommodations for the audience:
• The design team had to pivot from its original designs first concepted in 2017 because of COVID-19. Instead of hands-on mechanical cranks, for example, motion sensors and electric motors were incorporated to make elements — and kids — move. This solution is longer-lasting, more cost-effective, and more sanitary.
• Inclusivity and accessibility were behind every design decision. Interactive elements are designed within a child’s reach and are also accessible to those in wheelchairs. As an international hospital, Boston Children’s receives visitors from all over the world. All the installations took into consideration representation and are inclusive and respectful of different cultures.
• Extra attention needed to be paid to scalability, lighting, and positioning due to the range of materials used in the fabrication of the artwork, from hand-painted and hand-sculpted polymer clay to etched and paint-filled wood to acrylic and print pieces.
• We were challenged to design a uniquely immersive experience that was cost-efficient to build. Each level of the hospital has a 50-foot-wide corridor extending from the elevator lobby to the reception check-in waiting room area with a 14’ wide niche recessed 18”. With a lot of areas to cover, designers made thoughtful use of flat, illustrative graphics combined with custom interactive installations that align with each floor’s theme. This made the engineering and fabrication process efficient and cost-effective while achieving Boston Children’s Hospital’s original vision for the new building.
Working closely with the project team, the designers developed a concept that was met with praise from stakeholders and user groups alike, including and most importantly, the kids receiving treatment at the hospital. The installation offers unexpected moments of calm and wonderment during what can be an otherwise stressful time.
Shepley Bulfinch Photography, Kim Smith Photography (photography), Kim Smith Videography (videography)