Hospital halls become paths into artists’ imaginations

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Hospital halls become paths into artists’ imaginations

Harborview murals vibrantly evoke nature and heighten patients' privacy
McKenna Princing and 4Culture

Harborview Medical Center’s skybridges serve as gathering spots, walking routes, even impromptu staff meeting rooms. Now, three of the walkways are also immersive, colorful panoramas imagined by four local artists.

Vibrant murals have been installed along West Hospital skybridges on floors 3, 4 and 5. Their main purpose is to enhance privacy of patient rooms that face the walkways from across an open area. 

Brian Donohue
(Click to expand.) Detail of the fifth floor mural. ©2015 Troy Franklin and Eroyn Franklin, "Fecund," from the King County Public Art Collection at Harborview. This artwork was funded through King County’s 1% for Art Program, managed by 4Culture.
detail picture of a walkway mural at Harborview Medical Center

The bonus is that the walkways themselves come alive as sunlight filters through the transparent digital transfers. Hues tilt off the ceiling, walls and floors like stained glass in a cathedral.

“The murals have completely transformed the character of these passages, introducing saturated color, glowing energy and visual interest,” said Peggy Weiss, UW Medicine art program manager. “It’s like being transported instantly, for just a moment of respite, into the tropics or a beautiful garden or a wooded glen. The effect is mood-enhancing.” 

The project was the brainchild of Lisa Herriott, the hospital’s interior designer and manager of clinical support services and planning. It was funded through King County’s 1 Percent for Art program, managed by 4Culture. 

Four local artists were selected to create the murals’ designs: Kate Sweeney, Celeste Cooning, and collaborators Tory and Eroyn Franklin. Each work reflected nature as the primary inspiration, yet each was conceptualized uniquely. 

Brian Donohue
(Click to expand.) A mural is installed in a fourth-floor walkway. ©2015 Celeste Cooning, "Peaks and Valleys," from the King County Public Art Collection at Harborview. This artwork was funded through King County’s 1% for Art Program managed by 4Culture.
A mural is installed along a fourth-floor walkway at Harborview Medical Center.

Harborview has a large collection of public art located throughout its buildings and exterior spaces, aimed to help create a healing and welcoming atmosphere. Increasingly artwork is being infused into building systems and furnishings.  “Healing Green” and “Light as Inspiration,” two of the hospital’s overarching art themes, guided the artists’ work, Weiss said.

About the murals

Floor 3: "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter" by Kate Sweeney
Sweeney’s idea for her mural came from her experiences hiking in the Pacific Northwest forest and seeing shafts of sunlight streaming though the tree canopy and onto the shady forest floor. She was taken by the image of vine maples reaching up toward the sunlight. In her composition, each of the window areas represents a color palette taken from one of the four seasons. 

Floor 4: "Peaks and Valleys" by Celeste Cooning
Cooning’s stylistic, pattern-based composition merges references to the Pacific Northwest landscape and the Art Deco architectural details found throughout the hospital. The color palette of soft whites, green and rosy-lavender is intended to remind viewers of a spring day.

Floor 5: "Fecund" by Tory Franklin and Eroyn Franklin
The Franklin sisters chose to represent four different eco-tones in their artwork: Pacific Northwest forest; wildflower and grass meadow; tropical jungle; and arid desert landscape.  Each composition also features a vibrant mix of patterns taken from cultures that live in those landscape zones. This is the first time that the Franklins have collaborated on a piece.