Located at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Lullaby Factory is both a physical structure, appearing to carry out the imaginary processes of making lullabies, and a soundscape, which delivers the lullaby to young patients in their beds or through listening pipes.
It is situated within an awkward exterior space created by the phased redevelopment of the hospital where large windows from the wards of the new Morgan Stanley Clinical Building look directly onto the old Southwood Building until it is demolished in 15 years’ time.
Rather than covering up the oddities the architects, Studio Weave, responded to the open competition brief by re-imagining the Southwood façade, with its copious pipes and plant, as the best version of itself; and rather than hiding what is difficult, create something unique and site-specific.
The exterior space stretches ten storeys in height and 32 metres across, and in places the gap between the two buildings is less than one metre: it is visible from all angles and heights. The design sought to capture the sense of peering into a secret world, which can only be seen from within hospital buildings.
In their work, Studio Weave are concerned with making places the best versions of themselves, and never a poor copy of an abstract ideal. This has led to the development of a design process that seeks to interpret places and structures and allow them to live up to their full potential. The Lullaby Factory is designed to provide an uplifting and calming environment while capturing the imagination of young patients undergoing treatment. In dealing with a challenging and inaccessible site, the use of sound was important as a different way to engage with a space. Aesthetically the design conjures up a mix of musical instruments and a romantic vision of industry.
Studio Weave finds that projects developed through a narrative lend themselves very well to community engagement, particularly children, and have explored this is in various ways in our work. At an early stage, before developing designs, the story of the Lullaby Factory was told to patients in the hospital to gather feedback and build momentum for the project. The installation aims to inspire engagement in a variety of ways for the staff and patients at the hospital.
The Lullaby Factory consists of two complimentary elements: the physical factory that appears to carry out the processes of making lullabies and the soundscape. Composer and sound artist Jessica Curry composed a brand new lullaby especially for the project, which children can engage with through listening pipes next to the canteen or from the wards by tuning into a special radio station.
The timeframe for the development of these is as follows:
- The story of the Lullaby Factory was written and distributed to the children in hospital with accompanying illustrations. The story is the history of the factory’s origins, stating that it was founded in 1852 and is the oldest continually operating Lullaby Factory in the world. Sending songs to Sleepies in the hospital and beyond, the narrative encourages children to enjoy their stay and to take advantage of the complimentary nap at the end of the tour. Each ingredient of a lullaby has a special name and function, and the process of creating the music is explained through descriptions of the manufacturing manual. Click here to read the full Lullaby Factory story. (July 2011)
- Composition of the lullaby music by Jessica Curry and recording by choir Voces 8. (April 2012) (Link here )
- Prefabrication of elements off-site: a mixture of spun and fabricated aluminium, of which some elements have been coloured gold and copper with specially mixed tinted lacquers (according to what type of process in the manufacture of lullabies they are carrying out). More complex elements have been moulded from GRP (glass reinforced plastic) and finished with a thermal arc metal finish that is then brushed and lacquered. In addition, old gauges and taps from a boiler house being decommissioned have been incorporated into the Lullaby Factory. (May 2012-August 2012)
- Installation of elements on-site following remedial works on façade. (August -October 2012)
The Lullaby Factory is visible from all windows in the new Morgan Stanley Clinical Building including wards, circulation areas, cafeteria/restaurant etc.
At the beginning of the project, the idea of the Lullaby Factory was tested with children in the hospital – they were asked what it made them think of and what sounds it would make, as well as where they would like to read/ listen to the story/lullaby. This informed decisions in the development of the project.
The project has been well received by the client and hospital. It has also been successful in awards, including recently winning an AR+D Award for Emerging Architecture, which has gained further publicity for the project.
Documentation & Dissemination
Since completion, the project has been published widely in the architectural and design press, and medical press, as well as featuring on numerous blogs internationally.
The project is documented in full on Studio Weave’s website.
January 2011 – ongoing
(construction completed October 2012)
Studio Weave (architect)
Jessica Curry (composer)
AB3 Workshops (fabricator)
Structure Workshop (structural engineer)
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children
Nature of Project
Collaborative/ participatory, Public art commission