Think of a hospital and you’ll probably find your mind working in institutional off-white, with splashes of surgical blue or green. At least this has been my experience of hospitals in the UK.
The inside of Herlev Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark was a real surprise.
On a sunny morning of bucket-freezing cold in 2013, I stepped inside Herlev Hospital for the first time. We entered via the rotating door at the entrance which scooped us into the hospital’s spacious main reception area. The sensation of colour and warmth was immediate.
There was no institutional, grey gloom but vibrant waves of colour and light on every corner.
There were wheelchairs; there were doctors; there were the sick and the recovering … but there was also a playful, positive sense of welcome. And it was bright.
Denmark is well-known for its design, and Herlev Hospital for its colour.
The hospital was opened in 1976 and much of its interior decoration was carried out by painter Poul Gernes, who worked on the project from 1968 to 1976. Gernes.
I did not visit any of the wards at Herlev Hospital that day but I understand they too are striking, each painted according to where it is in the hospital. Blues and greens are on the walls of the wards facing north; orange and reds for the rooms facing south; yellow for those looking east; and peach and apricot for those facing west. In each room there is one white wall behind the patient to keep the doctor’s job as focused as possible.
It is not just the walls that are painted. Throughout the hospital the tiny details, the fixtures and fittings, have been painted with purpose – to fit the artistic whole.
Denmark is in the process of streamlining its national medical provision and Herlev Hospital is due for expansion. It seems, from what I’ve been able to find out, that much thought has again been given to the mental well-being of patients and staff.
I do not know whether the impact of Gernes’ work on ‘well-being’ and ‘morale’ has ever been statistically proven however I do know that Herlev Hospital felt alive that Monday.
There was bounce and balance, and a sense of optimism.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018