Published on : June 22, 2010

Use of Glass Artwork in Healthcare Environments

Use of Glass Artwork in Healthcare Environments

The Healing Properties of Art Glass

What is important in creating artwork for healthcare institutions? What kinds of glass art work is best in hospitals and why? Large hospitals seek to maintain an atmosphere of humanism and human-scale despite their size. Diversity in artwork creates a humanistic environment, respecting individual differences.

Large hospitals accomplish this by utilizing diverse art and design elements that hold interest for their patients, their families and their friends. Glass has wonderful properties of light transmission that help create healing environments by bringing in more daylight. Art glass changes with changes in ambient light. Reflections on glass due to weather changes and from the movement of people through the space create almost a living environment.

Colorful art glass enlivens spaces with a complete range of translucent and opaque colors. Transparent and textured, cast and slumped glass conveys a handcrafted feeling that people find soothing. Illuminated glass has an appealing radiance. Healthcare design professionals often seek artwork with nature-inspired healing themes from the artistic natural world and this can be beautifully conveyed in glass art.

Many artists design glass artwork. Some artists design and fabricate their own art glass while others design it and contract out the fabrication. Some designers do their own design work and have others fabricate their designs in glass for them.

Glass artwork is created using many glass-working techniques. Painting on glass with enamel frit or with cold-applied paints has brought the world of color to life in art glass. Increasingly color options and durability have improved for painting on glass. Etching, carving and sandblasting glass, and stained glass windows are time-honored glass-working techniques that can be decorative or tell stories. Laminating glass is now done with inter-layers containing photography, paintings and digitally created imagery printed on the interlayer.

asting or slumping textures and shapes into glass has a contemporary feel, echoing the healing elements from new hospital architecture. Bubble glass encases air bubbles in glass which is fun and whimsical. Bubble glass can give a feeling of water without the maintenance issues of water. Art glass can be created combining some of these techniques with extraordinary results.

Uses in Healthcare Settings

Glass art is used extensively in hospital settings including general and children’s hospitals. Hospitals use art glass for privacy screens to maintain  HIPAA privacy rules compliance in waiting rooms, clinical examination rooms and nursing stations. Hospital lobbies feature monumental wall-mounted glass artwork. Art glass is almost always a component of non-denominational or religious hospital chapel art and meditation rooms.

Monumental panels of art glass have been used on building façades to help integrate the hospital into the streets and the surrounding community. Art glass is used in dining rooms of hospitals and assisted living facilities. Art glass wall art is popular in waiting rooms. Privacy partitions made of art glass are common in hospitals, medical centers and doctors’ offices.

Children’s hospitals create wonderful art glass. Art glass can be created in child-themed artwork including use of toys, letters, numbers, plants, animals, birds, fish, wildlife, and outer space to name but a few concepts. Art glass can also be used for pictorial way-finding signage for children’s hospitals which enables pre-literate children to find their way around.

Benefits of Art Glass over other Art Materials

Functionally, healthcare designers want safety. They prefer using chemically inert materials which are easy to clean and maintain. Art glass is non-porous and thus can be easily cleaned. Durability and vandal resistance are also issues regarding artwork in public spaces and art glass scores high on both of these scales.

Fire-rated wall systems help hospitals with disaster preparedness. Some patients are immobile and heat, fire and smoke resistant glass is imperative to allow the time needed to evacuate immobile patients during a fire. Cast and painted art glass can be placed in 30, 60, 90, or 120 minute fire-rated wall systems. Insulated glazing helps to stabilize room temperatures and can reduce energy usage when combined with sunlight.

Bullet-proof and laminated glass can be safety features in psychiatric hospitals. Laminated glass can also meet hurricane safety standards for wind and impact when used in facades of buildings. Laminated glass and insulated glazing units are also helpful with reducing noise transference. Europe now even manufactures an anti-bacterial glass that kills 99.9 percent of bacteria. This glass can be most helpful with the enormous problem of transmission of illness and infection in hospitals, seniors’ facilities, long term care and any other healthcare facilities.

In summary, few other materials have the strength, cleanliness, and durability that glass offers for use in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Art glass has long been one of man’s most treasured art objects. People delight in the unique visual beauty that can be achieved with art glass. As a material, its light transmitting and reflective qualities are uplifting. This is why art glass has been used for centuries in religious buildings. This combination of practical considerations and visual characteristics are hard to compete with. Let an artist or design team create art glass for your project, and the sky’s the limit!

About the author

BJ Katz is the Founder, Principal and Art Director of Meltdown Glass. Many of her art work have been inspired by nature and the subtle use of color and texture in Asian art. BJ grew up in Chicago and throughout her childhood, she steeped herself in the Asian art collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (which she believed to be the largest Asian art collection outside of Asia). As part of the Glass Art Society’s conference in Japan many years ago, she took a course in Kyoto, Japan from Madame Hiroko Ando, a renowned Shibori artist and Shibori historian.

Her education includes studies at the Pilchuk Glass School in Washington and an extended apprenticeship in kiln-cast glass techniques in Australia and New Zealand with glass masters, Ann Robinson and David Wright. She studied in Japan, and continued learning as she collaborated with glass and design professionals to share techniques in decorative glass. She accepted an invitation to participate as an adjunct artist with Derix Glass Studio in Germany, an organization that has fabricated decorative art glass for churches and public art installations for 150 years.

As a lifelong learner, her travels allow her to gather techniques and information that influence and enhance her work in the field of glass. She often lectures to groups of artists, design professionals, glass professionals and students to share knowledge and ideas. She has lectured at NeoCon, the international interior design trade show held annually in Chicago.

In addition to owning and operating Meltdown Glass, she continued to create unique glass artwork for galleries, public and private art commissions for collections around the United States including having her artwork permanently displayed in the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York and in the International Cat Museum in Amsterdam.

The media has recognized her career by soliciting her opinions as a respected glass professional for magazines including US Glass, Glass magazine, Interior Design and Architecture. She has authored articles including a feature for Glass magazine on the relationship between glaziers, design professionals and producers of decorative glass.

She also has been featured nationally on TV, profiled as one of seven women on HGTV’s Modern Masters special, Women Artisans. Meltdown Glass was featured in 2005 on HGTV’s I Want That. Meltdown Glass was part of a house redesign for an episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover – Home Edition in July 2006 guest hosted by Marilee Matlin. Textured art glass was used in helping create a tactile environment for a family that included visually and hearing impaired.

BJ has received recognition in the form of awards from a number of organizations including the Construction Specifications Institute. In 2006, she was awarded the Masters of the Southwest award by Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine. In April 2008 she won the award for Decorative Glass from Glass Magazine and another in March 2008 for the Designer’s favorite product by Contract Magazine.

1 HIPAA - Health Insurance and Portability Act, protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information.