Lullaby Factory by Studio Weave


1 March 2013

A narrow gap between two buildings at London's Great Ormond Street children's hospital is the site of Lullaby Factory, a whimsical audio installation from Studio Weave.

The installation is a 10 storey high network of gleaming decorative pipework. The pipes twist into copper drums and exaggerated golden ear trumpets that stretch outwards from the hospital's buildings. The idea is that children staying at the hospital imagine the piping as a Roald-Dahl like factory producing soft music.

The architectural elements of the installation are accompanied by a soundscape developed by sound artist Jessica Curry. Curry created a lullaby that plays over the hospital's radio frequency and which can also be heard by placing an ear next to dedicated "listening pipes" near to the hospital's canteen.

Studio Weave - the London-based architecture practice founded by Je Ahn and Maria Smith in 2006 - created the installation between the hospital's recently completed Morgan Stanley Clinical Building and its 1930s Southwood Building, which is due to be demolished in 15 years time.

"The aesthetic of the Lullaby Factory was intended to be a mix of an exciting and romantic vision of industry, and the highly crafted beauty and complexity of musical instruments," says Smith. "The existing facade was already covered with pipework so we simply added special elements to the existing to transform it into the Lullaby Factory."

The position of the installation means that it can only be viewed from within the hospital. Studio Weave's design also incorporated elements found from around Great Ormond Street and the new piping is woven in with the buildings' existing ductwork.

"We love how you can't always be sure which elements are functioning and which are new," says Smith. "At the time we were designing the Lullaby Factory, a boiler house in the hospital was being decommissioned so we were lucky enough to be able to incorporate real gauges and taps from that."

The project is a further investigation into sound design by Studio Weave, which in 2012 created The Hear Heres at Kedlestone Hall in derby. A set of four vast curling ear trumpets, The Hear Heres amplified the sounds of the parkland that the hall is set in.

"Designing the Lullaby Factory and The Hear Heres was not simply a matter of considering what things look and feel like, but also considering what they look like they sound like," says Smith. "We found that this reciprocal relationship between the two media encouraged a playful, exciting design process."