Art in Japanese Hospitals

KingsFundThe Arts in Health Care. Kings Fund April 1999

In 1996 I lived and worked in Japan for nine months. This was an inspiring experience, through which I was fortunate to meet many talented artists and architects. During mv stay I was able to bring together rnany artists and architects for a series of round-table discussions known as the Tokyo Exchange and the Kansai Exchange. Although my principal aim was to examine mainstream art and architecture, I did have the opportunity to visit a number of new Japanese hospitals. These included hospitals in the Kobe area damaged by the Great Hanshin earthquake in January 1995. Much of what follows is the result of my time there.

Art in Japanese hospital design The global demand for less hostile and more patient-oriented hospitals has stimulated considerable debate on the kind of environment that is appropriate for healing. In Europe and the USA, 'heating art' programmes are well documented, but little is known about equivalent design initiatives in Japan. This summary of developments in Japan will include urban hospitals, community hospitals in Kyushu, hospital art projects.

Urban hospitals This section concentrates on three hospitals completed in the last five years, each demonstrating innovation in the provision of health care. 1 St Luke's Hospital 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Health Plaza Hygeia 3Hyogo Rehabilitation Centre

Community hospitals in Kyushu This brief review of recent community facilities in Japan begins with a selection of health buildings by three of the most famous and talented architects: Arata Isozaki, Itsuko Hasegawa and Toyo Ito. Some of the main services provided for are obstetrics, services for the elderly and mentally ill. The facilities are The Etoh Clinic, Oita, 1985 2 Hinuga Aged Peoples' Home, Yatsushiro City, 1994 3 The Sea Ward Stress Care Centre, Omuta, 1989 all of which are located in Kyushu Western Japan.

Kyushu is Japans ancient gateway to the Orient and the rest of the world. The West may have influenced the main urban Japanese hospitals, but these three small provincial and innovative community hospital projects may signal a reversal in the concept and phenomenon of universal design.

Hospital art projects
Osaka City Hospital Architects: Osaka City Government and K. lto and Tihata Joint Venture
This enormous recently completed multi-floored monolithic structure is an 800-bed hospital. As you might expect from an important advanced city hospital, it contains all the latest state-of-the-art diagnostic and theatre equipment. It is, however, the intervention of artists and designers who make this facility special. An impressive selection of artworks has been assembled from competitions held at the early stages of the building procurement programme. The theme of the art competition was 'warming hospital gentle to people' but the strategy was clearly to use the artefacts as landmark and floor identification features, way-finding devices for the hospital's public circulation system. The works range in size, according to their context, from a huge hospital icon in the form of a giant letter 'O' in the hospital forecourt to corridor and individual ward identification symbols. The technical quality of the artefacts close up is considerable, from the enormous timber circle (maru) to the expertly crafted wood reliefs. The entrance assembly hall is elegantly adorned with appropriately scaled hanging lacquer works and banners. The main street junctions feature wrap-around landscapes that link the corridor elevations and soften the severity of the corners.

Tamananbu Regional Hospital Architects: Yokokawa Kenchiku Jimusho
Tama City is one of the new orbital suburb cities which have sprung up as Tokyo attempts to decentralise itself. Consequently, the city now has a brand new 600-bed hospital which is capped with a distinguished barrel roof. Inside, the public spaces are elaborately adorned, featuring above the main reception area a monumental carved image of the rising sun. A large textile tapestry hangs in the entrance of the outpatient department and has become a symbol for the hospital. A most satisfying feature of the building is the elegantly registered street elevations. For floor recognition a range of different potted-flower arrangements, unique to each level, are positioned outside the elevators. Ikebana is a unique and popular Japanese art form that induces contemplation and delight. The Japanese are a nation of flower lovers, and of course the shrub and plant arrangements change according to the seasons. The scroll paintings in the traditional tokonoka niche are also changed to suit the time of the year. Origami is another native craft form examples of this folded paper tradition were presented by a former patient to the radiotherapy department in gratitude for the treatment he had received there.

Hekinan Municipal Hospital Consultants: Department of Architecture, Nagova University Design & supervision: Kume Architects - Engineers
Located in the Nagoya Bay area of Aichi, the City of Hekinan has adopted the policy of a healthy port city with a green environment and regards its 330-bed hospital as a centre for the comprehensive care of its citizens. To harmonise with its beautiful lakeside location, 30 per cent of the site is reserved for natural vegetarian. By clearly separating the outpatient's department diagnostic services from the wards, an opportunity has been created for the rnain reception hall to overlook a generously landscaped courtyard. To achieve a creative atmosphere, ceramic murals and works of calligraphy are distributed around the hospital streets. A clear entrance landmark is produced by a large monumental rock landscape: the enormous informally arranged stones present a safe haven and create a sense of a place to meet.

Short videos have been produced of the above hospitals in Osaka, Tama and Hekinan City


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