The Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula was sidled with the best sort of problem: the space to list donors on their donor wall was full. The existing donor wall, designed by Amri Studio (Portland, Ore.), had stood the test of time for the organization aesthetically, functionally and spiritually, so they decided to double its size, which was no small task for a multi-layered 20-foot-long, dimensional, LED-lit crystal mural.
The Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) is a non-profit hospital and healthcare provider. The hospital was established in 1934 to serve the quaint coastal California community and has steadily grown to provide outpatient, mental health, laboratory, hospice and skilled nursing services to the surrounding communities as well.
Because CHOMP is a non-profit hospital system, philanthropy plays a vital role in their ability to provide healthcare services. In order to recognize their many generous donors, they enlisted the help of Amri Studio in 2009 to create an artistic donor recognition wall in the lobby of the main facility, a building designed by architect Edward Durell Stone. The lobby where the donor wall was created is a welcoming space with information and reception areas and a large koi pond, flanked by a café and topped by an enormous domed skylight. This intentionally comforting space sits at a crossroads of corridors and acts as a sort of town square for the hospital, often hosting informal meetings.
The original donor wall piece is 20-feet long and was envisioned to welcome patients and visitors into the hospital by introducing them to the facility, its mission and its philanthropic legacy while encouraging a calm, contemplative atmosphere. The project took nearly a year because of the robust planning and approval phases but took a quick five days to install. The layered art was integrated into an existing long cement wall with a custom-embossed repeating pattern of the healthcare system’s logo by creating a niche using two plasters and a cherry wood base box with the help of the hospital’s interiors architect and facilities manager, Fred Bensch. The lower-light conditions on that side of the lobby were ideal for an LED-integrated donor recognition wall.
The piece is constructed from three vertical layers with generous air gaps between to create a profound sense of depth, apropos given the water theme. Furthest back is a layer of UV-resistant Di-Bond, screen-printed with an impressionistic rendering of a water pattern. The front layer is formed from carved and etched crystal glass panels with 23-karat gold inlaid lettering, which swivels open to allow for ease of access. The middle layer of eight of the 12 panels are made from high-quality fire-polished acrylic that has been screen-printed and is replaceable, accommodating hundreds of donor names to be changed annually. Gallery spotlights highlight the gold inlays, and programmable LED’s edge-light the crystal, cycling through a slow color change throughout the day and in time with shifting light conditions.
The project was a great success. The Amri Studio team was able to seamlessly integrate the donor wall art into the work of an iconic architect while ensuring a clear expression of donor recognition and major donor tributes. In fact, it was such a well-loved part of the institution, that, on the heels of a highly successful fundraising campaign six years later when space for donor names had run out, the donor relations committee called Amri Studios to create a new wall. Instead of dismantling the original work, the Amri Studio team proposed expanding the wall to nearly double its original size by adding two flanges, creating a triptych approximately 35 feet wide.
For the expansion project planning phase, Amri Studio has been working extensively as before with the entire administrative staff from the Foundation and Development Officers to the CEO of the hospital. They have sorted out issues of scale, electrical access, readability and functionality. All final dimensions, structural needs and content have been agreed upon for the May 2017 install.
Production and installation of a delicate and complicated project of this scale are no small feat. The carving and etching of the crystal glass panels take about five days for each one, not inclusive of design. The process begins with an art file, which then becomes a film, then a large, unwieldy and expensive stencil that must be applied panel to panel with absolute perfect registration. Then, a sculptor hand-carves each dot, line and letterform with a high-pressure silicon-carbide abrasive from both sides of the glass, using a bas-relief technique. This creates an optical effect when edge-lit making the letterforms look deeply embedded into the glass. “When the LED light travels through the glass, the glass itself becomes a fiber optic, and everything that’s carved into this sheet of fiber optic illuminates like a hologram, it’s really quite stunning,” remarks Christina Amri, Founder of Amri Studios. This technique along with the studio’s ability to keep the process cost-effective sets their small studio apart from their competitors.
The next challenge is getting the delicate artwork to the installation site without incident. Amri Studios has only lost a couple of pieces over the years to shipping accidents, but in Amri’s words: “We’ve gotten really good at packing and transporting; we now build our crates with double-walled sides, load bars, compression foam and lag-bolted feet so they can’t tip over.” Once that hurdle has been achieved, the team will build a plastic room in the lobby to complete the approximately five-day build while shielding the delicate artwork from the heavy foot traffic.
It isn’t a simple process; the cabinetry must be perfectly level (even when the floor and walls are not) before the glass is brought in. The lighting system must be re-engineered and the availability of color LED lights have changed in eight years, so there is much color-matching and custom programming yet to be done. The team is confident and excited for the expansion process to enter its final stage, once again providing update ability with no compromise to the appearance of a quality and timeless permanent-monument type installation.
For all the fundraising success of the project, it has been the personal, emotional response that has been the most rewarding. Many people have found inspiration in the donor wall (and the generosity of its movie-star top donors) including medical tech assistants, employees, patients and even those in the Palliative Care Hospice.
“In its highest form, art reminds us of the sacred and binds us to life itself. If there was nothing of beauty, I would find it difficult to make sense of the often day-to-day grind of life, especially when working with the ill and dying,” writes Stephen Price, a former R.N. at CHOMP, “The theme of giving leapt off the glass to remind me of the importance of my work as a nurse and its true reward.”
Project Name: Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula Donor Art Wall Expansion
Client: Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula
Location: Monterey, California
Open Date: February 2010 and May 2017
Project Area: 313 ft2 overall (156 ft2 original with 157 ft2 expansion)
Experiential Graphic Design: Christina Amri and Amri Studio Team
Planning: Christina Amri
Collaborators: Tim Feldman (Engineer)
Photos: Gabriel Harber, Amri Studio, Charles Rinn