Adam Ball’s installation lights the way to wellness

The new Royal Papworth Hospital begins its patients’ wellness journey early, thanks to Adam Ball’s light-based art installation.

London-based artist Adam Ball has created a powerful installation for the new Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. First revealed in April with the hospital’s opening, the new permanent art installation has been created to welcome both patients and staff to the hospital, and create an optimistic, life-affirming atmosphere.

Lead architects on the Royal Papworth project, HOK’s London Studio, appointed Ball as consultant artist, and over the last eight years Ball has worked closely with the architects to create the 3 x 16 metre installation. Entitled ‘Until the day you feel good’, the installation is his largest permanent art project to date, and forms the exterior wall of the hospital, next to the main entrance.

Throughout his process when creating the artwork, Ball also worked closely with surgeons and hospital staff from various departments; he spent much of the time investigating and researching source material for his work, even witnessing thoracic surgery first hand. His finished installation, therefore, has been directly influenced by the people working at the Royal Papworth, and aims to provide visitors with a positive environment as they enter, helping reduce their stress and anxiety.

“This work has been a long time in the making and was underpinned every step by the firm belief in the importance of art in the recovery of patients. While I have always believed this to be the case, I gained a much greater appreciation of its importance when my daughter fell ill and we found ourselves in and out of hospital with her,” Ball says. “Hospitals can be intimidating environments, so I wanted my work to be welcoming for patients and their families as they arrive, and to create a less clinical, optimistic feel and a brief distraction from their circumstances.”

Initially created from white fabric that had been hand-cut into 11 sections with surgical scalpels, ‘Until the day you feel good’ was then photographed and screen-printed onto glass. To complete the work, the panels were backlit by a bespoke LED lighting system, which has been designed to gradually change colour through the seasons.

It’s been well documented in scientific and medical journals that colour can have a huge impact on wellness; with this knowledge, Ball enlisted the help of acclaimed French colour expert, designer Jean Gabriele Causse, to decide how best to illuminate the work. The result is that the LED-backlit panels change colour gradually, transitioning slowly as the seasons chance, and marking the passing of time.

“The gradually changing colour in Adam’s piece reflects the hospital as a dynamic place, evolving day after day,” says Causse. “Colour offers comfort and subtly enhances trust which in a project like this is crucial in the wellness and healing journey.”  The panels of the art installation now shows warm yellow and orange tones through the winter months, morphing into cool, relaxing blues and greens during the summer.

Discussing Ball’s work, the lead designer for HOK’s London Studio, Ian Fleetwood, said, ““Adam was a logical and intuitive choice for the entrance piece at the Royal Papworth Hospital. He worked closely with the design team at the early stage of the design process. His enthusiasm and collaborative approach perfectly illustrates the symbiotic relationship between art and architecture, which, as ever, is rich and rewarding.”

Set to be one of the world’s leading research hubs for science and healthcare, the Royal Papworth Hospital was officially opened on Tuesday, 9th July, by HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

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