Message in a Bottle pix
Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 3/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Granary Associates' interactive glass wall enlivens the recreation area of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Claire Tow Pediatric Pavilion in New York; custom maple trolleys are equipped with plasma screens for TV, video games, and Internet access.
A sketch illustrates the glass wall's location in relation to the recreation area's peaked skylight.
Perforated-steel-mesh panels, beneath the skylight and behind the wall, soften the area's abundant natural light; 2B Studio's bent-plywood Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo chairs surround a custom Corian-topped round table.
Wiring for the wall's LEDs runs through its tubular-steel frame.
Granary Associates former director of design Pierre Trombert installs one of 77 tubular-steel baskets, each of which holds glass objects.
Among the wall's found and donated pieces is a colored-glass vase.
The wall's LEDs respond to human interaction via footpad controls; the custom maple booth, one of five, is covered in polyester.
Sit in a booth and it's like being in your own crystal palace. The booth, one of five custom, is set within the base of Granary Associates's interactive glass and tubular-steel sculpture wall at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Claire Tow Pediatric Pavilion in New York. Defining the pavilion's recreation area, the towering structure, composed of myriad glass objects, from a cobalt-blue bottle to a jade-green Chinese fishing float, illuminates with human interaction, acting as a beacon of light and hope for the young patients and their visitors.
The 45,400-square-foot pavilion, located on the ninth floor of a three-building complex, is part of Memorial Sloan-Kettering's ongoing renovation and new-construction project, slated for completion this year. The pavilion encompasses a 28-bed treatment bay, a 33-bed in-patient area, a pediatric observation unit, an intensive-care unit, and a physicians exam and procedure suite.
Granary's wall, measuring 70 feet wide by 22 feet high, partitions the recreation area from the floor's hallways and patient waiting area. When embarking upon the project, the firm, led by its then director of design Pierre Trombert, explored the idea of a vessel as a metaphor for the human body as well as for happy associations such as the sea, sand, and light. Joan Steiner's children's-book series "Look-Alikes" and its three-dimensional worlds provided further inspiration. As in the book, each viewing of the wall reveals another surprise. "Patients may come every week for years," says Granary president and CEO Jack Cummiskey. "The wall had to be engaging."
Thus the wall's 77 water-jet-cut tubular-steel baskets, ranging in size from 1 square foot to 3 by 4 feet and slipped into the steel frame, are panoramas of discovery. One basket holds a Snoopy bank. Another, a little log cabin that used to contain maple syrup. Another still, a glass hand.
Antiques shops, flea markets, and even the kitchen cabinets of the architects' own homes were scoured; hospital donors and staff made contributions. The more personal glass items, composing approximately 20 percent of the wall, provide jolts of color. The remaining objects are clear. "We started off with your average soda bottle," explains project executive James May, "but brought in 20-gallon water jugs when we realized we'd need some 55,000." Liquor and medicine bottles were intentionally left out.
Adding to the wall's delight is its ability to respond to motion, sound, and video sensors through LEDs. Created in collaboration with interactive sculptor Remo Saraceni, the sensors are set off by directionals on nearby footpads. A wave of the hand lights up a bevy of geometric shapes. A whisper into a hidden microphone illuminates a vertical column. A smile gets returned with a beaming grin. Standing motionless on one footpad makes a butterfly's wings flutter. But only one characteristic can activate all four responses together, like a celebration of light: being bald. "We were determined to create something with spirit," says Cummiskey.
When not exploring the glass wall and its scintillating contents, children can watch TV, play video games, or surf the Internet on plasma screens set within Granary's custom maple trolleys, which roll with ease across the linoleum floor. They can read or draw seated at either plywood-topped fan or custom Corian-topped round tables in chairs by 2B Studio or Antonio Citterio and Oliver Löw.
The recreation area is topped by a 25-foot-high peaked skylight, filling the space with glorious natural light. Perforated painted-steel panels installed beneath the skylight and behind the wall temper the brightness yet retain the aperture's translucency, visibility, and views of the skyline. Indeed, the gentle light and awe-inducing wall create a certain magic rarely found in hospitals.