Discoveries a Mile High


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Boettcher Atrium Glass Art
Kirkland's design transforms a whimsical concept to an unforgettable experience for everyone who visits Children's Hospital Colorado.

Discoveries a Mile High

Art engages its audience in a cognitive exploration, and lends itself to many interpretations. Larry Kirkland, nationally renowned artist, challenges patients, families and staff to look beyond the glass, and to reflect on the different colors and objects in his design at Children’s Hospital Colorado. 

Kirkland’s glass art, located on the east wall of Boettcher Atrium, is a metaphor for the medical challenges that caregivers at Children’s often face. Just as they must continuously research and diagnose disorders, and discover groundbreaking, new treatments, “I wanted the artwork to be something for people to continuously discover and explore as well,” said Kirkland. 

Having previously worked together on the design of The California Science Center, Design Architect Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) asked Kirkland to design the glass panels. 

“He is an exceptionally collaborative artist who has found a way to make stationary artwork lively and animated, which is a great accomplishment,” said Sharron Van der Meulen, principal designer for ZGF. “He was able to capture a whimsical and enduring design derived from nature that people of all ages and backgrounds will find delightful.” 

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The concept of Kirkland ’s artwork was inspired by Children’s patients, families, doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers. In addition to collaborating with the architects and hospital administrators, Kirkland spent three days facilitating focus group discussions among these priority audiences. 

“Listening to the focus groups stimulated many ideas about the designs I wanted to create, which was an environment supportive of a wide variety of people,” said Kirkland. “I realized that so much of the visual environment at the hospital is geared toward tiny children, but I wanted teens to participate as well.” 

Kirkland and Carolyn Braaksma, designer of the terrazzo floor in Boettcher Atrium, collaborated to include some of the same images and basic shapes in their designs. 

As a result, the art, designed on seven, large, 20 feet by 30 feet glass panels, features butterflies, sun and sunflowers, trout, the night sky, running horses, snowflakes and a composite of all six images. 

“For me, it was a whole different experience to become emotionally invested in a project,” said Kirkland. “Now, I feel like a part of the community of people who visit Children’s, and the people who work there.” 

Kirkland’s hope is that everyone gets involved with the exploration of his art. “I want them to see something new each time,” he said.