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Journeys of the Imagination

The enhanced design of the play waiting areas across the RHCYP was led by design team Warren Design. Daniel and William Warren began by talking to patients. 

“We asked patients in the waiting rooms what they thought a waiting space should be like” recounts Daniel. “There are lots of practical challenges – families of very different groupings of ages; a level of privacy for breastfeeding; buggies and wheelchairs; the need of teenagers not to feel grouped together with younger children. But alongside the practical needs, there were some common themes about the mood of the space. Bright, fun, quiet and relaxing were popular words. And art activities, along with books, magazines and toys, were the most common activity requests – to our surprise more popular than the internet and physical play.” 

“We also worked out early on that art and play – and the teams who facilitate that – were vital for making patients feel welcome, and feel ownership of the space,” adds Daniel “Hospital play is a specialist discipline, with play practitioners using it for a range of purposes – distraction, preparation, post-procedure, development, and the one which seemed particularly important in the spaces we were working in: normalising the hospital environment.   Knowing about the play and art opportunities available, which might be similar to what you can do outside a hospital, also matters, so those opportunities need to be visible. And related to this, another big thing we identified was this Edinburgh sense of ownership of their children’s hospital. ‘Everyone’s been through the hospital at some point’ – we kept being told that, and the look and feel of the place will become a shared memory for so many Edinburgh locals, so art, gently playful art, obviously has a big role to play in making the new waiting spaces distinctive and giving people an even more positive experience of somewhere they consider so much their own.” 

So we took all this input,” says William, “and we started thinking about gentle, but fun, approaches we could take to the spaces. That included everything from the furniture to practical things like storage to bigger art interventions. For example: there’s one chair we designed, which is a bit like a deer, so playful, but also has a table built in which can be used for drawing or writing. And another example is the arches in the Pod space, where we worked with illustrator Emiliy Hogarth to create a imaginative ‘safe’ feeling spaces where different groups can gather, or which can become part of a gentle toddler hide-and-seek 

In conclusion, then? “There are innumerable ways that art and play relate in the spaces we worked on” says Daniel. “Overall, we hope that the atmosphere we’ve created through using them is what patients asked for: quiet and relaxing, but at the same time, bright and fun.”