MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion: Serene Glass Wall Tells ‘Lowcountry Story’

Perkins + Will worked with McGrory Glass to create a two-story glass art wall installation that captures the blue-and-green essence of the South Carolina marsh, the focal point of the new award-winning children’s hospital design.

Imagine a newly built healthcare facility that, in an effort to promote patient, visitor, and staff wellness, takes its design cues from the lush surrounding serene blue-and-green landscapes. That’s precisely what the 625,000-square-foot Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion in Charleston does – while providing top-of-the-line, integrated medical care for children, and obstetrical services for women.

This particular children’s hospital and women’s pavilion is among the most autism-friendly hospitals in America. One design goal was to create a serene, soothing atmosphere for autistic patients of all ages. That included removing potential anxiety triggers that could result in an overwhelming environment. The design encourages predictability, with minimal “visual clutter,” as well as calming acoustics and lighting.

MUSC Charleston NYC SC
Exterior | Photo © Halkin Mason Photography LLC

Completed in January of 2020, the architectural firm, Perkins + Will designed a compassionate healthcare environment reflective of MUSC’s core values.

“Our design team worked with [MUSC’s] clinical leadership and Patient Family Advisory Council to imagine the building’s conceptual theme, ‘Stories of the Lowcountry,’” Lead Designer Carolyn BaRoss, principal at Perkins + Will told Healthcare Design. “These ideas informed the interior design as well as a framework of thematic walls and destinations to enhance wayfinding and create visual interest. Working with MUSC’s curators, with connections to the local arts community, we reviewed ideas with an art committee and identified a diverse range of work that would be appealing to all ages.”

In the main lobby, visitors are greeted by a two-story-high art installation that runs the length of one wall. The stunning imagery from local photographer John Duckworth, commissioned to “capture the essence of the South Carolina marsh,” was then reproduced by the experienced team at McGrory Glass’ in-house Print Division as laminated glass panels. 

“This project was unique from its inception,” says Mike McGrory, Vice President of Sales, Southeast Region, at McGrory Glass. “The credit goes to Perkins + Will and John Duckworth on the vision to create an emotionally comforting atmosphere with these lobby wall panels.” 

A Wall to Remember

The South Carolina landscape drove the design intent and narrative at MUSC. “The surrounding marshland, waterways, beaches, and wildlife combined with the charm, architecture, gardens, and culture of Charleston inspired the team to create a rich framework of metaphoric and iconic imagery,” Perkins + Will Lead Designer and Associate Aiko Tanabe told Healthcare Design. “Each [floor] is a confluence of place, people, and culture. … The interior planning and design embrace the unique site and enhance the connections to the waterfront and views of Charleston.”

The Perkins + Will team embraced McGrory Glass’ digital printing technology as a design option to meet their budget constraints without sacrificing aesthetics.

“We integrated these commissioned works into architectural materials that were already specified for the project—for example, a glass partition with an interlayer, a high-impact wall protection wainscot, and plastic laminate wall panels,” BaRoss told Healthcare Design. “We looked at ways to meaningfully integrate artwork and meet the budget.”

For the large lobby art wall, McGrory Glass produced six 51 7/16” x 139” panels and six 51 7/16” x 121 1/8” panels in 13/16”-thick tempered laminated glass. The lobby wall with signage includes four 50” x 120 ¼” panels and three 51 9/16” x 96 ½” panels in 9/16” annealed laminated glass, mounted with McGrory’s CaptiveHook® system. The two conference room art pieces are made from 96 x 53 ½” panels of 9/16”-thick tempered laminated glass.

MUSC Charleston NYC SC
Main Lobby  |  Photo © Halkin Mason Photography LLC

“John Duckworth did a tremendous job of supplying brilliant artwork to use for our printed interlayer,” McGrory says. The green-hued panels on the lower tier are opaque, while the blue panels on the top tier, which can be viewed from both sides, are printed with a customized translucency level to allow for a combination of maximum light allowance and maximum privacy.

The McGrory Glass Print Division digitally reproduced Duckworth’s artwork onto interlayers, which were later laminated between large glass panels. Using a proprietary process, the team created and manually aligned the custom interlayers within layers of glass in one of its three manufacturing facilities. The results were spectacular. “Being able to print in-house gives us – or rather our clients – endless possibilities, from gradients and metallics to corridor-length, precisely aligned art,” McGrory says. “As you can see in the photographs, John Duckworth’s brilliant colors pop extremely well in that space and even more so when you see this installation in person.”

Several of the McGrory’s strengths came to light during this project. “ To allow Perkins + Will to achieve their vision, we provided different combinations of custom colors and translucency levels ,” McGrory says. “Our Sample & Resource Department produced multiple sets of samples.”  “Our use and proprietary mixing of organic pigments provides for the widest color gamut allowing for matching of nature’s brilliance within our glass artistry.”

The result: John Duckworth’s artwork and colorations on the panels flow into one another with precision. “Our in-house print team achieved that visual result with their attention to detail,” McGrory says. “Then, our lamination team precisely laid and laminated the glass panels to ensure they lined up flawlessly when installed, which they did.”

MUSC Charleston NYC SC
Main Lobby | Photo © Halkin Mason Photography LLC

Mounted by CaptiveHook®

For the opposite side of the lobby, the McGrory team provided four fully opaque glass panels in the same color palette as the main art installation. The panels are overlaid with light blue way-finding signage announcing the name of the facility. As a continuation of the marsh color story, several complimentary glass panels were produced and mounted as art pieces on the walls.

Like the larger wayfinding panels, the smaller art pieces in the lobby and conference rooms were mounted with CaptiveHook®. McGrory’s patented, proprietary, glass wall and ceiling mounting system. “The CaptiveHook® installation was easy and quick,” McGrory says, “and it achieved the desired look, which was no visible hardware or fasteners.” The secure, plug-and-play system, which can be used for mounting glass panels of any dimensions up to and beyond +85sqft / +500lbs, offers both a minimal reveal and infinite design options.

McGrory sent the receiving, wall-component of the custom-framed system out to the MUSC project site before shipping the fully manufactured wall panels (that arrive on site ready for immediate installation).

“As your glass panels are produced, the receiving wall-mounting system can begin to be put in place on site. The modular construction arrives ready to hang, saving you install time and labor costs.,” says Pat McCormick, McGrory’s Architectural Project Manager specializing in CaptiveHook®. Before each component leaves McGrory for a new job site, McGrory’s engineering team reviews the plans to confirm all framing, fasteners, and screws are correct for each glass panel.

CaptiveHook® is definitely a gold standard in the industry,” McCormick says. “We provide detailed installation instructions to glaziers for their custom job, furnish onsite assistance and consultation, and even invite them to attend a one-day install training program at our facility or via Zoom.”

Meanwhile, McGrory Glass Project Manager Kelsey Nork kept everything running smoothly on the production side of this project.

“With a lot of moving parts and paperwork to organize for production, specifically print, lamination and mounting, Kelsey did an amazing job of managing this special project,” McGrory says. “The whole job went forward with no issues or headaches once it was in production thanks to Kelsey and our team.”

An Award-Winning Design

For their superior design work at The MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion, Perkins + Will were the recipients of a 2020 European Healthcare Design Award—the Interior Design and Arts Award—at the sixth annual European Healthcare Design Awards, which recognize professional excellence in the design of healthcare environments in Europe and around the world.

MUSC Charleston NYC SC
X-Ray Room | Photo © Halkin Mason Photography LLC

“It’s an honor for our firm to be recognized for the hard work and dedication of our teams to designing humane healing experiences for patients and staff,” said Jean Mah, Global Health Practice Leader at Perkins + Will, in a statement on the firm’s site. “Our clients have a common goal of creating beautiful and healthy spaces to continue advancing healthcare design and innovation.”

The European Healthcare Design Award jurors were impressed not only with “the building’s thoughtful design elements that cater to the various patient populations, visiting family and staff,” but, “with how the environment immerses building users in a rich, cultural landscape inspired by ‘Stories of the Lowcountry’ that communicates the unique flavor of the region through numerous layers of art and graphics.”

The design intent shows continuity, with the interior reflecting Charleston’s familiar landscapes and architecture. For a calming atmosphere, the tones and textures in the hospital rooms reflect the area’s restful beach houses.

MUSC Charleston NYC SC
Exterior Sitting Area  | Photo © Halkin Mason Photography LLC

MUSC’s exterior also adheres to the same design intent. “There are moments of wonder and delight that reflect the building’s distinct program,” Perkins + Will Lead Designer and Senior Associate Randy Maxwell told Healthcare Design. “Colored glass playfully highlights neutral tones of sweet grass, as well as blues and greens of sea and sky, melding the exterior and interior color and finish palettes. They also highlight where the facade encloses public or patient- and family-focused areas.”

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