By Bonny Van
The Catholic Commentator
On a gray, cold, blustery day, Chris Janney, an architect and jazz musician, watched as construction crews and massive cranes worked to move 12 structural columns into place that would support 88 sheets of 6′ x 6′ thick, transparent colored glass to form a canopy over the entrance of the new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.
Crews install support columns at the entrance at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator
“There will also be a series of interactive elements,” explained Janney. “When you touch the columns, you’ll trigger light and sound. The sound will be environmental sounds from the bayou and the Mississippi River.”
The 4,000 square-foot Harmonic Grove is intended to “create an environment as an entrance for children of all ages coming into the hospital that’s a bit relaxing, a bit soothing and a bit calming,” according to Janney. Janney said he does a lot of work with transparent colored glass and sound, especially in public environments. Kelly Furtado, executive director of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, said the Children’s Hospital committee learned about Janney through retired hospital administrator and jazz musician George Bell, of Baton Rouge.
“(Janney) came down and pitched his idea to the committee and we just all fell in love with him and the whole idea of having this iconic entrance where families and children can go to be distracted for a few minutes and be amazed and inspired in some way as they’re entering into the hospital,” said Furtado. “We just thought it was a perfect fit.”
Janney, a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, said when he works on a project, he uses environmental sounds that are indigenous to the area that the artwork will be located. He also uses the resources from a number of universities throughout the country that have “ornithology departments and departments where they’ve gathered sounds from across the U.S.” For this project, which has been in the works for two years, Janney also recorded sounds from the Bluebonnet Swamp in Baton Rouge.
“I know exactly who to call or email and they send me sounds on a CD but then I actually begin to compose all the sounds in the music studio, and that’s still going on,” explained Janney. “Because the piece won’t open until November – and part of it is I needed to have the canopy up and the glass in so I can listen for the reverberation and the echo that’s in the space and that will help me also to design what sounds are going to be part of it.”
Janney will oversee the construction of the canopy for two weeks. Once each of the 500-pound panels are in place, crews will use special caulk to attach them. Then, the columns will be wired for sound. Anyone who presses a hand to one of the handprints on the columns will trigger colorful shadows and sounds from 24 speakers.
Janney said the musical instruments accompanying the environmental sounds will include flutes, acoustic guitars and mirimbas.
“Just things that are actually soothing and calming that mix together with the environmental sounds,” said Janney. “Yes, you’ll hear some Zydeco. I think the idea is to create an entrance to the hospital that is soothing and relaxing but yet creative and playful you know which will attract children.