A whale of a welcome to the new Lurie Children’s Hospital,
Outliers appreciates a good whale story, hopefully told over a cocktail, and the soon-to-be opened Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago offers one.
The 23-floor facility will replace venerable Children’s Memorial Hospital’s old location in Lincoln Park and is set to open in June. Part of the planning included decorating the children’s rooms. Unlike Captain Ahab, Children’s Memorial didn’t need a harpoon to hunt down help.
About four years ago, hospital staff asked local civic institutions if they would donate art and staff time to help decorate the $915 million building. Response was positive, and the hospital found 23 organizations and assigned them each a floor to decorate. One of those groups was the Shedd Aquarium, which donated a 30-foot Fiberglas sculpture of a mother whale and her calf. The whale became available after the aquarium did some remodeling and it no longer fit in their plans.
The mother and child now hang high above the escalators at the hospital’s main entrance. Before reaching the hospital, Shedd staff repainted the whale, making it look more realistic, said Sally Smith, production manager, designer and animator at the Shedd.
“The Shedd really has an appreciation for the work that the hospital does and being a good community partner. Not only is it a positive seeing our work in the hospital, it helps advance our mission connecting with the living world and inspiring them to make a difference,” she said.
The Adler Planetarium also partnered with the hospital, with a skyline of Chicago in the neonatal intensive-care unit. Visitors can push a button corresponding to a child’s birthday and see a constellation light up, said Bruce Komiske, chief of new hospital design and construction for Children’s Memorial. Komiske said the hospital’s art budget was “less than 1%” of the overall construction budget, which would be about $9.2 million. That made the donations from the community vital, and Komiske said the hospital is appreciative of the community’s efforts: “We could not expect them to spend their own money.”
Part of the Shedd’s design was to decorate doors with a unique animal. It’s easier to identify a room by remembering an animal versus a number, Smith said.
Hospital staff preferred photos of smaller animals in the rooms as opposed to larger types, which could be considered threatening or intimidating. Schools of fish or monkeys could better promote a more intimate climate. When color-correcting, staff also scrubbed any red off the images using computers, to ensure a more calming environment. Animals that were red were changed to a friendlier hue, orange.
So, unfortunately, that means patients won’t be seeing any visages of an Outliers favorite from our childhood, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
A sculpture of a whale and her calf adorns the entrance of the new Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.