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Altro helps integrate art into new university college hospital building

  • 13 Jul 2022

The positive impact of an enhanced environment is incontrovertible in modern healthcare – staff and patient experience is improved by art; the impact on wellbeing and outcomes is significant. So it is fitting that the new Grafton Way Building at the University College of London Hospital (UCLH) incorporates more than 100 original pieces of art, printed on Altro Whiterock Digiclad™ (Custom) wall sheets and forming part of the fabric of the building.

The world class facilities strengthen UCLH’s position as a leading national and international hospital. Above ground, modern, purpose-built inpatient wards for people with blood disorders are provided over three floors, with a further floor for a new critical care unit and surgical ward.

The 25m deep basement, created by one of the largest excavations in London, houses eight hyper modern operating theatres for planned orthopaedic, ear nose and throat and oral surgery and the Proton Beam Therapy Centre – one of the first in England – which will offer ground-breaking radiotherapy treatments to patients, targeting tumours more precisely. 

Guy Noble is Arts Curator with UCLH Arts and Heritage Programme, and works to improve patient and staff outcomes through the Arts. He curated the artwork that features so prominently throughout the new facilities.

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Guy explains: “There is a raft of evidence showing how enhanced environments improve recovery rates for patients.

“Nature and views of nature are particularly impactful. The themes for the new hospital encompass nature in many forms. We have looked to artwork to uplift, to calm, to distract – this can be really effective for people in distressing or worrying situations.”

Guy’s team commissioned more than 100 original pieces of work, covering 3,000 square feet. Lucy Gough and Eloise Renouf designed work for the critical care unit; Alex Echo’s work features in the Proton Beam Therapy Centre and many other areas of the building.

Altro Whiterock Digiclad (Custom)

This ambitious art project was made possible through the use of Altro Whiterock Digiclad (Custom), which is created by reproducing a photographic image or design on to Altro Whiterock wall cladding, with consistent, photographic quality. Hard-coat technology provides scratch-resistant properties for added surface protection.

Guy explains: “Altro Whiterock Digiclad was the right choice for a number of reasons. It satisfies our infection control requirements and our Fire Officer was more than happy with its fire rating too. Its robust nature really helped as well. 

“Cleanability and durability are so important in hospital settings. Alternatives such as vinyl wallpaper simply wouldn’t have the longevity needed in this environment.”

The bespoke wall sheets were printed from digital files using UV cured inks. “The print quality and colour resolution were simply excellent,” Guy adds.

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Darren Baggett, an Internet Asset Entrepreneur, former city trader, and long-term supporter of UCLH, has been passionate about this art project from the very beginning and was instrumental in raising funds to help bring it to life. He worked closely with artist Alex Echo throughout the project.

He comments: “It was fantastic following it from start to finish – seeing the concepts and ideas develop organically and be brought to life and installed as part of the fabric of the building to last for years to come.

“Altro were supportive with their pricing to make the project possible. The installers did an amazing job. This was the best thing I was involved with last year – it was the ray of sunshine. Everyone involved in the project was so positive about it and that shows in the end result.”

The wall sheets were installed by Absolute Interiors, an Altro Whiterock Premier Installer.

Guy adds: “Absolute Interiors have worked with UCLH over the years and they understand our requirements. They delivered well and to the timescales – we are really pleased with the results.”

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The artists

Lucy Gough’s prints use simple graphic lines and bold colour blocks to form a coherent style that has come to define her artistic practice. Her most recent work draws inspiration from a variety of sources including architecture and geometry.

Eloise Renouf is an artist, designer and illustrator. The things she creates are decorative yet simple, colourful but thoughtful. Inspired by the outside; rethought on the inside. 

Alex Echo has created artwork professionally for forty years, and has placed his works in the collections of some of the world’s top corporations, institutions and celebrities. He has worked relentlessly for various charities and institutions, raising over $1,200,000 from sales of his work. 

For another Altro healthcare case study, you can read about the company adding colour to Sheffield Children’s Hospital here.

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