Newsworthy: A Warm Welcome

March 1, 2008

Interactive wall welcomes visitors to children's hospital

By Brandy Huseman

When the staff at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA in Pasadena, CA, needed to "warm up" their lobby, they called in the graphic designers at Hunt Design to introduce interactivity and changeability that would tell the story of both the hospital and its patients.

"We were brought in to bring an ordinarily static wall to life with storytelling through graphics, interactive media, and projected images throughout the space," says Jennifer Bressler, a principal at Hunt Design, a Pasadena-based graphic designer.

The 48-foot-long, 11-foot-10-inch-tall wall, which sits in the hospital's lobby, features a constant stream of completely changeable video content. The hospital is part of the I.M. Pei-designed Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Two overhead motion video projectors scatter images of butterflies, patient drawings, and key words - sharing messages of healing, hope, and recovery over the wall, floors, and hallways.

"Our goal was to warm up that space for people that are waiting for their kids to get out of surgery or are visiting kids that are there," Bressler says.

The large, curved wall fills the entry space with its super-graphic wallpaper, which brings together both the Mattel story and the personal stories of patients. The right half of the wall tells the multicultural story of Mattel with two Panasonic 50-inch high-definition plasma screens - one vertical and one horizontal - displaying recorded video of interviews with doctors, nurses, patients, and parents. "It's sort of through Mattel's eyes, how they tell their story," Bressler says.

Two other photographs on lenticular panels - one of a child shaking the hand of a dog and another of a child checking the heartbeat of a nurse with a stethoscope - flip as guests walk by. "It's sort of another little fun feature that you see as you're walking by, another thing that creates motion," Bressler says.

A glass column in the center of the wall contains a view port into which children can peek and see their own images, captured by three child-height cameras inside the column.

AV manufacturer and integrator Electrosonic provided the production and editorial for the motion-video content. The company also installed the electronic content for the project.

"Hunt knew that they wanted to implement differing forms of technology, interactivity, and motion image displays in the design," says technical designer Benjamin Lein of Electrosonic. "They turned to us to partner with them in the design development and subsequent detail design of the wall."

Electrosonic's creations included three small 15-inch LCD open-frame monitors and three large rear-projection screens on the left half of the wall that tell the stories of hospital patients. These circular windows source a changing montage of motion video and graphics, made up of testimonials from children who have been treated at the hospital. The fluid and flexible design of these and all the screens on the wall makes it possible for UCLA to change its content any time to show the most up-to-date information the hospital has on its efforts to help patients.

Two overhead motion video projectors scatter images, patient drawings, and words of hope and healing across the Welcome Wall and the floors and hallways surrounding it.

In the center of the wall, a glass column provides another fun feature: a view port into which kids can peek and find their own image projected on the wall, thereby making them a part of the wall. Three different child-height cameras capture their pictures on the wall, creating a "what's your story?" feature that rounds out the interactivity of the entire space.

"The content definitely drove the design of this project," Bressler says. "The inspiration really came from all the different groups that we met with at the hospital. Nurses, doctors - they all chipped in all their different ideas."

Located in a space originally targeted for simple artwork, the Welcome Wall instead uses advanced technology to provide a warm, interactive, welcoming visual for the hospital's patients, parents, and visitors alike.

"Making a positive, emotional connection with visitors to a children's hospital presents obvious challenges," says Wayne Hunt, principal at Hunt Design. "In hindsight, using the latest technology to tell these incredible stories was the natural solution - it truly emulates what the hospital is all about."

Brandy Huseman ([email protected]) is new products editor at ARCHI-TECH.

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