Acclaimed Designer Morag Myerscough Creates Cheerful Children’s Wards in Hospital

Acclaimed UK designer Morag Myerscough is the celebrated brains behind vibrant installations, from bright pink cranes to a 10m tall camera obscura in Mexico City. Known and loved for her bold lashings of colour and geometrical stylings, Myerscough has now turned her attention to lifting wards in Sheffield Children’s Hospital with her cheering design. The project is a collaboration with Artfelt, the Children’s Hospital Charity’s arts programme.

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Myerscough was brought in to work on 46 en-suite bedrooms and six multi occupancy bays in the hospital’s new wing. “It’s a collaboration, rather than a compromise,” says Morag of the design process; the need for wipe-clean and sterile surfaces, and a sensitive environment, made for a challenging brief to which Myerscough rose with characteristic boldness. Formica panels are a key design component in the project, maximising the comfort of the occupants by hiding the plugs and wires that make for a more clinical space. Four different schemes are alternated throughout the rooms, including a paler scheme for children with conditions that might include an intolerance to brighter patterns.

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As creator of Studio Myerscough in 1993, one of the most prolific studios in the country, and recent co-founder of Supergrouplondon, Myerscough electrifies public spaces with liberal dashings of bold colour designed to invigorate and enliven. Her work on the Sheffield Children’s Hospital is no exception.

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This project is a particularly exciting one, as it starts the conversation about how clinical spaces can and should be designed. We talk to this ‘wardsmith’ to find out how she works.

The Plus: Morag, what brings you back time and again to bright colours?
Morag Myerscough: I have always been surrounded by colour from an early age, as my mother is a textile artist. Colour is very important, and can affect our moods.

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TP: Does this extend to your wardrobe?
MM: Depends on my mood, and on what I am doing. I wear a lot of black and white, with accents of colour, but then I just bought a new dress that is all colour.

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TP: What music are you listening to at the moment?
MM: I tend to listen to radio four, so enjoy spoken word rather than music.

TP: Why do you like creating public art?
MM: Because it is an important form of art to take part in.

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TP: What was it like designing to a different brief? This isn’t so public a space…
MM: I loved the challenge. Rooms are really complex compared to corridors or more public spaces – especially in a children’s hospital, because you’re creating for patients who have various conditions and there are a lot more controls involved.

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TP: What were the challenges of working in a sterile environment?
MM: The use of materials is always the limiting factor. Whatever I wanted to do I would have to do on Formica, and the wood grain on Formica is actually screen printed onto paper and then laminated. So to get the really pure colours that I wanted, I had hoped to screen print my own pattern onto the existing wood grain. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that because you can only screen print one or two colours on to the paper before it disintegrates. In the end we scanned the wood grain, and then digitally printed the patterns, making sure it all matched up. Then we printed it onto paper and laminated it like normal Formica… We managed it – but it did take a year!

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TP: Did you meet any of the children in the hospital?
MM: I had meeting with the clinical staff and not the patients on this occasion – but Artfelt met the patients. Previously, on other projects, I have worked very closely with the patients – it just depends on the project.

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TP: What is next for you, Morag?
MM: I am flying to New Zealand to do a talk. I am also just completing a huge hand painted installation in Linkoping hospital, Sweden. You can see progress on my Instagram.

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