NHS charity partners with Albers Foundation to transform children’s intensive care unit

Artwork used as inspiration for vibrant new interiors at St Mary’s Hospital

Artists Josef and Anni Albers have created vibrant artwork for St Mary's Hospital's children's intensive care unit

The work of legendary artists Josef and Anni Albers has been used as the inspiration for a set of vibrant new interiors for the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital as part of a £10m refurbishment to be unveiled this spring.

The design of the new and improved unit has been developed as part of an exciting collaboration between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Imperial Health Charity, and The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

Inspired by the Alberses’ iconic geometric patterns, the charity has worked closely with the foundation to create a supportive environment for critically-ill children and their families.

With energy and heart, the people at St Mary’s have realised the wonderful transformation of the children’s intensive care unit to an unprecedented degree and my hope is that it will become the benchmark of what can be done worldwide wherever there are children – and the people who love them – in need

This includes wall murals and prints from Josef’s Homage to the Square series; and bespoke bed screens and wallpaper taken from Anni’s designs.

Backed by a £2m fundraising campaign – the More Smiles Appeal – and a further grant of £2.8m from the charity; the trust provided the remaining funds for a £10m refurbishment which will almost double the number of beds and enable staff to treat an extra 200 seriously-ill children every year.

The partnership started in 2016 when Nicholas Fox Weber, director of the Albers Foundation, approached the trust after hearing of the plan to extend and rebuild the children’s intensive care unit.

Anni’s fundamental belief that art should be a ‘visual resting place’ and an absorbing source of diversion; and Josef’s constant desire to use ‘minimal means for maximum effect’ are richly realised in the use of their art.

The collaboration has helped to create a warm and welcoming environment during what can often be an extremely-stressful time in hospital for families, with bright and positive yellow and orange colours used throughout.

Inspired by the Alberses' iconic geometric patters, the pictures are in shades of orange and yellow to promote healing

Josef believed yellow was the colour of healing and the reception, waiting area and parents’ room have all been designed with this in mind, making use of the vivid colours in his works to add warmth to an otherwise-sterile space.

The artwork and designs have been developed in this unique interior by graphic design team Sable & Hawkes in collaboration with the Albers Foundation.

Fox Weber, whose grandson Wilder Fox Smith was born at St Mary’s in 2014, said: “For Anni, abstract art was a source of balance and diversion, a relief from life’s troubles.

This has allowed us to combine art and science in a clinical environment where the colours and patterns contribute to a healing and therapeutic environment for the benefit of critically-ill children and their families

“And, for both her and Josef, the universal and timeless qualities of rhythm and colour brighten existence as can nothing else, and enable people to withstand some of life’s greatest challenges.

“With energy and heart, the people at St Mary’s have realised the wonderful transformation of the children’s intensive care unit to an unprecedented degree and my hope is that it will become the benchmark of what can be done worldwide wherever there are children – and the people who love them – in need.”

Lucy Zacaria, head of arts at Imperial Health Charity, adds: “The works of Josef and Anni Albers have transformed the space, bringing colour and movement into what may otherwise seem a very-sterile environment.

“The playful, modernist designs work particularly well, appealing to children and adults alike.”

And Dr Simon Nadel, head of children’s intensive care, said: “This is a unique project where we have had the opportunity to combine state-of-the-art clinical equipment and space with beautiful artworks kindly donated by the Albers Foundation.

“This has allowed us to combine art and science in a clinical environment where the colours and patterns contribute to a healing and therapeutic environment for the benefit of critically-ill children and their families.”

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