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Adding magic to the elevator ride

When were you last surprised by something you expected to be very mundane? Like an elevator. At Finland’s New Children’s Hospital, you step into a fairytale as you journey between floors.

Creating a healing environment full of hope and a little bit of magic – this is the inspiration that has driven the design of the new hospital, which will soon welcome some of Finland’s youngest seriously ill patients, their families, and, of course, the medical staff that care for them.

“Hospitals are changing and have changed a lot to increasingly become environments that support health. We have – thankfully – moved away from the standard pale greens and yellows that used to equal hospital design,” says Elina Laitinen, design expert in KONE’s service design team.

An elevator can be much more than a grey steel box on a rope. And when it comes to sick kids and their caretakers, it needs to be.

“When we started thinking about this project, we started by considering the elevator as a complete sensory entity: sound, lighting, materials,” Elina says.

“We came up with completely new solutions, trying out, for example, different worlds of sounds. It was clear to us from the start that the elevators would need to have indirect lighting so that bed-bound patients wouldn’t be faced with glare when they entered the elevator.”

Adding magic to the elevator ride

Glass artists at work

Adding magic to the elevator ride

Materials and how they are treated are vital to the creation of a particular ambiance, as are lighting and sound. This is as true for an elevator as it is for any other space. But in a hospital environment, there are several factors in addition to aesthetics that need to be considered. There are strict guidelines regarding the characteristics of suitable materials, for example.

Materials need to be durable so they withstand heavy usage and the inevitable knocks and blows that come from transporting hospital beds and other equipment. They also need to be easy to clean to prevent the spread of germs, making three-dimensional materials tricky. Floor materials need to be selected to minimize the risk of slipping, they have to endure washing with water, and they need to be smooth enough for patients to be comfortable when they are moved in or out in a bed.

“At the same time, there are accessibility requirements relating to the height and positioning of different elements in the elevator car, their size, and so on. And for this reason we needed, for example to include conventional push buttons, even though they are trickier to clean,” says Elina.

And beauty, of course, is always an important design consideration.

“Glass is an amazing material because when you layer it with mirrors, satin, print, or something else still, you get really different effects. Glass reflects surroundings and light to create a sense of space,” says Elina, adding that KONE worked closely with a glass supplier in Italy to create the unique walls of the elevators. The methods used included digital printing on glass, the insertion of colored films between layers of glass and mirrored glass.

“We have been among the first to use glass treated in these ways in the construction industry,” Elina says.

Moomin magic

At the concept phase, the KONE team started also with a standard elevator, trying out decorative tapes and other simple solutions for adding design elements to the basic car. While SARC Architects and Architect Group Reino Koivula, Inc. were responsible for the overall design of the New Children’s Hospital, including the elevators, the KONE team created prototypes for them to review.

The design of the entire hospital takes its inspiration from Finnish author and artist Tove Janssons’ Moomin stories, many of which are filled with elements of nature – islands, forests, the sea, the stars – and often deal with difficult themes such as friendship, loss, and forgiveness. Often, though, the adventures end on an optimistic and comforting note.

In the end, what left the KONE factory in Hyvinkää, Finland, were true pieces of art that add a bit of magic to allure visitors of all ages as they journey through the New Children’s Hospital, which will open its doors during the end of 2017 and 2018.

To read more about the New Children’s Hospital, please visit the Moomin Characters website.

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