Can a Glowing Porthole Heal the Sick?

French designer Mathieu Lehanneur created a porthole-inspired device for palliative hospital patients which projects an image of tomorrow’s weather forecast. Designed to provided hope for the seriously ill, the innovation begs the question: What if the forecast is rainy? Does weather have an effect on our mental state? And is it ethically wrong to project a sunny image to the terminally ill – even if the forecast calls for storms ahead?

Victorian art critic John Ruskin once mused that “sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” Perhaps John Ruskin was an optimist. More likely, he knew the value of the here and now.

Consisting of weather information aggregated in real time on the Internet, Lehanneur’s device is certainly technologically advanced. Currently programmed for Parisian skies, each “porthole” can be customized to reflect the patient’s desired location, whether they’re checking up on family in North Dakota or dreaming of beaches in Thailand. With the rise of light therapy and weather-related mood changes, the solution is a smart one.

“The luminous – atmospheric and impressionist – image of this sky is diffused through the network of a honeycomb structure, appearing both like a sculpture and a celestial globe,” Lehanneur explains. In other words, the design is a touch more appealing than your average Weather Channel.

And with hospital design gaining speed as an increasingly important concern across the globe, Lehanneur’s project is timely. A recent New York Times article profiled the work of mural artist Odili Donald Odita after finishing a 5,000 square-foot abstract painting onto the walls of New-York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan:

“[Odita] knew that unlike gallery browsers, patients would face his painting for hours and even days. He hoped someone staring at the complex shards might ‘allow the color to open up other ideas of possibilities or considerations of what might be going on in their life,’ he said.”

Lehanneur would undoubtedly agree. “I thought about how to enable a discussion … between the patient, the family and the medical profession in a context where it is difficult to talk about … the future. In a certain way, the idea was to talk about the current weather conditions to circumvent the question of the time remaining,” Lehanneur writes. “I also liked being a step ahead of death itself. Perhaps I will not be [here] tomorrow, but I know what tomorrow will look like.”

Image Credit: Mathieu Lehanneur / Carpenters Workshop Gallery

p.s. Just for fun: a cloud sculpture, cloud stool and clouds vs. dust bunnies.

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