Researchers developing technique to
project light art into hospital rooms


A Texas A&M architecture instructor is currently working with HKS on experimental prototype designs for a device that reflects sunlight into colorful artistic patterns, which, when projected on walls or ceilings of hospital rooms, can promote healing.

According to designer Dr. Jill Mulholland, a Department of Architecture lecturer, the colorful patterns will evolve throughout the day and change with the seasons. She is collaborating on the project with Marsha Whitt, an HKS project architect.

Mulholland, who earned a Ph.D. at Texas A&M in 2007, has focused her creative and scholarly work on light and its manifestations in architecture, art history, interiors, theatre, prose and nature. She came up with the idea of using light in hospital environments to reduce stress in recovering patients after two hospital stays of her own.

“During my first hospital stay in 1986, the environment was institutional and without warmth,” Mulholland said. “The second time, in 2006, the hospital felt more like a hotel.”

And though her recent visit was significantly more comfortable, she said her recuperation would have been more effective and enjoyable had there been better use of art, particularly light-art; a concept supported by research that suggests positive distractions, such as art, reduce stress.

“A lot of my time in the hospital was spent staring up at the ceiling, and even though they had a TV in the room, sometimes I couldn’t watch it because of medications I was taking.”

So Mulholland began experimenting with light-art for hospital environments, such as lobbies, chapels and patient rooms, using light in much the same way a painter uses paint, to create evolving, moving colored light forms.

“The light-art could improve healing by taking the patient a different place. Like a in dream, beauty can take you to another place,” she said. In this case, the beauty is expressed in the slow, ever-changing movement of color across a surface, such as the hospital room ceiling.”

Each semester, Mulholland’s design studio students experiment with light art, showcasing their work in a much anticipated college-wide light show.


- Posted: April 23, 2009 -

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