El Bosc

Bringing nature closer to hospitalised kids

For as long as we've been around, humans have understood the healing properties to be found in nature. The young patients at the Pediatric Cancer Centre Barcelona are often facing a long recovery of many months ahead of them, in which play and contact with the great outdoors will be essential. 

Unfortunately, during their treatment they are unlikely to have a chance to leave the hospital itself, so when we were invited to design an interactive piece for the space we understood that a connection to the surrounding Collserola national park was a must. And so began our in depth research of the local flora and fauna, searching for a way to bring them inside the walls of the PCCB.

This solution was a virtual forest formed of five towering digital screens, inhabited by different animals and plants that interact with the kids, transforming with the seasons and the passing from day to night. This is a forest filled with magic created through interactions, filling the screen with animals they’ve customised by texture and colour, whirling up a flight of butterflies, or spiralling tornados. Each of these is accompanied by noises that have been inspired by the park's own unique soundscape, to make the experience even more immersive.

It has been powerful to see the impact that interactions between the physical and digital world can have within the imagination of a child. We really wanted them to share in the joy of nature and its extraordinary creativity in finding ways to thrive. Butterflies that make long trips and take care of each other at night to protect themselves; seeds that are carried by the wind for long distances; birds that migrate between continents; and flowers with many remarkable properties.

This project presented several unique challenges, and called for a wide range of profiles. It was always essential to ensure that in developing a space for play, we were not interrupting the functionality of one of the world's foremost centres for Oncology. Fortunately, we had the pleasure of collaborating with a diverse team of animators, designers, architects, developers and many other brilliant minds including Arauna Studio, Rai Pinto Studio, Edu Prats, SMASH.

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