Water Walk

Submitted by Paul Housberg

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Client: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

Location: Boston, MA, United States

Completion date: 2013

Project Team

Architect

Perkins+WIll

Art Consultant

Boston Art Inc.

Artist

Paul Housberg

Industry Resource

LambertsGlas®

Overview

This art glass installation, entitled Water Walk, is located in the lobby of the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The installation consists of a milky, mouth-blown sheet glass with vitreous paint laminated to mirror. It glows with the ambient light in the space and reflects the movement of the viewer and changing lighting conditions. It is inspired by water, its movement, the play of reflections on its surface and the connections between water and healing.

Goals

Throughout history, water has been considered nature’s healer. Human beings are drawn to water for its soothing movements and fascinating textures, for its meditative sounds and ever-changing surface. It is a metaphor for the presence and flow of life and spirit. It can be a point of focus for meditation and reflection.

Spaulding is located on a beautiful site with harbor views and dock facilities for therapeutic water sports. There is water access for patients to canoe, kayak, and windsurf as part of the Weingarten Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program. The hospital is committed to a “holistic therapeutic approach” which strives to restore patients’ independence and ease their transition back into the community. Many of these resources are open to the wider public as well.

These factors contributed to the unfolding of my design for the Spaulding installation — the scale, the blues and greens, the reflective quality of the glass, the abstract patterns that mirror the harbor just outside.

But, there were also functional considerations. The glass visually ties together the lobby and mezzanine. It turns what was an imposing elevator core into a humanizing sculptural element. It creates the illusion of depth in a somewhat compressed lobby space.

Process

My initial conversations involved a focus committee comprised of folks from Partners Healthcare (the parent company of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital), Spaulding itself, Boston Art (the art consultant), and Perkins Will (the architects). We talked about how all of the art at Spaulding should aim to connect with patients in some positive way. That could happen directly, by triggering a meaningful memory or conversation, or maybe in a more nuanced way, through a pleasant sensory or emotional experience. The group had a great understanding that art could and should interact with the whole environment, from the architectural space and light conditions to the diverse variety of people who comprise the patients, staff, and visitors. They expressed a desire for a piece that could “interact with the people and space, change over time, never seem stagnant, be a living part of the building.” As one member of the focus committee put it, “Yes, Spaulding is in the business of CURING patient illnesses, but with this new space, there is a revived focus on HEALING the patient and the human spirit, and the quality of their environment, and their care (not just medical) all contribute to that healing process.“

Additional Information

It has been a pleasure working with people so grounded in the mission of helping others. Rather than prescriptive demands, they came to me with inspiring prompts. As one member wrote, “It should be a piece that says ‘yes, we care about creating an environment that is nurturing, beautiful, uplifting, timeless, one that speaks to regeneration, boundlessness, and moving forward.”