A new series of wall paintings by Fiona McLachlan, Professor of Architectural Practice, and her students were recently unveiled at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH).
‘Colour for the Corridor’, is Fiona’s second project at the REH and was undertaken in collaboration with Lothian and Edinburgh Health Foundation and is part of her ongoing research.
Nineteen students from the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) at ECA worked over six days to help install the wall paintings.
An example of knowledge exchange in action, the project had a number of aims including enhancing the everyday lives of the hospital community by improving way-finding and the creation of a less visually monotonous environment. Additionally, students had the opportunity to learn about the role of colour in architecture, and to contribute to a community outreach project.
Martha Smellie, fourth year MA (Hons) Architecture, said: “I was on the first team painting the walls at the hospital so it was incredibly exciting to paint out the white and start applying the colourful palette. The interaction with the patients proved to me the value of the project, as so many commented on how vibrant and exciting the new colour scheme was. It has made me realise the importance that colour has in making a space seem brighter and safer. I feel very lucky to have been part of a project which will brighten many patients experience of hospital.”
Colour palettes inspired by the seasons
The colour palettes are based on the natural seasonal cycle - autumn, winter, spring and summer - with one palette gradually merging into the next.
In ‘Autumn’, designed by Fiona, a warm and welcoming palette with contrasts of soft, deep colours and bright highlights has been used in the main reception area. A horizontal band at mid-height on the south wall of the reception extends out of the main space to the west, to emphasise this as the primary direction of travel. The west wall is a red russet-brown complementing the existing floor. This wall has a stenciled greeting in text to welcome visitors. A brighter yellow is used behind formal signboards along the corridors to direct attention to key information.
The design of a second wall painting ‘The First Frost’, was by PhD research student, Xuechang Leng who developed a palette of winter colours.
Benefits for students
Linking teaching and research to students’ studies was a vital part of the project.
“For the majority of students who took part there is a direct connection to their studies,” Fiona says. “Most of the students are either currently taking my fourth year UG elective ‘On Colour: in Architecture’ or have taken it in the past.”
Fiona continues: “Significantly, two of my PhD research students also took part, one of whom is Xuechang Leng. His topic is on the evolution of meaning in relation to colour in China. He has an interest in colour in healthcare and he has just heard that he has been awarded a Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities residency at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland located in Glasgow.”
Materials for the project were funded by Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation and the University of Edinburgh supported the project ‘in kind’ through staff time for design, project management and installation.