Hospital facades: What you see is what you get

The Kuopio University Hospital in central Finland stands out compared to most other hospital buildings. The facade is adorned with photographs from inside the human body: microscopic human life magnified in a huge scale, covering all of the main building.

People & design Healthcare

The facade concept is called Evolution with its microscope images of cells, magnetic images of the human brain and tissue structures made visible by a light microscope.

“The artwork communicates the evolution of the human body and science and all we can do today within medicine. It is about what every doctor do everywhere around the world”, says Jaana Partanen, art director at Partanen & Lamusuo, the architecture firm which has created the Evolution concept.

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The artwork is also a part of the building’s energy system. It is a two-facade system, with the microscopic photos printed on glass mounted in front of a traditional concrete facade.

“The Evolution works also as a sun protector and the air in the space between is cooling the building in summer and heating it in winter”, says Heikki Lamusuo, architect and CEO.

Jaana Partanen, art director and Heikki Lamusuo, architect and CEO at Partanen & Lamusuo.

 

Organic round shapes

From the outside you see the big picture of an artwork in one piece. But from the inside you only see smaller cut out parts of it.

“There are almost 200 windows, each one of them gets a unique piece of artwork”, explains Jaana Partanen.

Which takes us inside the building and into the lobby. Its extensive spaces are characterised by natural light and organic, round shapes, inspired by cells.

“Nothing is square inside our bodies. Inspired by this, we have used round and natural shapes in the hospital interior. This is reflected in the soft, rounded furniture as well.”

Helps creating a pleasant sound

The round shapes support the feeling of being safe and help creating a pleasant sound environment. Jaana Partanen underlines the importance of the acoustic perspective in the healthcare sector.

“When you are sick and ill or stressed, the sound impression is very important, it affects you maybe more than in other environments”, says Jaana Partanen.

In the big, spacious lobby, both the walls and the ceiling consist of acoustic panels. Staircases, walking bridges and even some furniture hide absorbents as well.

”You must take care of the acoustic environment early in the process. In this case it was not a problem, as the client understood the value of creating good acoustic conditions throughout the whole hospital.”

Part of nature

The Evolution artwork is in a way related to the biophilic concept of bringing nature inside buildings. It is neither showing greenery, animals nor water. But its core message is that we are part of nature.

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“We find the same kind of shapes in animals and plants. It is not only blood and unpleasant things inside us. There are lots of interconnected, tiny things that make us work. It is quite amazing actually. We are beautiful inside!” exclaims Jaana Partanen.

When coming to a hospital, you might be afraid or stressed over the state of your body. With the Evolution artwork, Jaana Partanen wants to bring hope and optimism to the visitors and patients.

“I hope this reminds us of the beauty inside our bodies and that hopefully there is nothing wrong – and that both science and our bodies are continuously evolving, enhancing our ability to heal.”

Comfortable colours

Jaana Partanen and her business partner Heikki Lamusuo are also the artists and architects behind the colourful facades of the Lappeenranta Hospital in the very southeast of Finland, close to the Russian border. In this case there was no room for using round shapes as an expression of safety and humanity. Instead, Jaana and Heikki used different colours to communicate positivity, joy of life and strength. There are all together 36 different shades, blended from seven original colours, on the plastered surface of the ten-storey high and 100 meters long main building.

“We want it to be more comfortable to go there. Most people are in some way afraid when going to a hospital.”

This artful approach is followed up inside the building. Art defines a considerable part of the hospital’s general appearance and spatial solutions. Each floor has its own expression and feeling. This is underlined by the colour-coding on details as pillars and luminaires.

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“Each floor has its own shades and tones, moving from bronze in the ground floor to more golden and finally silvery shades at the top floors. This helps the visitor to orientate in this huge hospital building”, states Jaana. 

Except giving each floor its own identity, the artworks aim at creating a different visiting experience in the hospital.

“Art takes the visitors’ thoughts away from the hospital environment, relaxes the visitor and quickens the healing process”, says Heikki Lamusuo.

A comfortable and healing sound environment is created with Ecophon ceilings in all parts of the building.

 

Text: Lars Wirtén