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New Children’s Hospital to feature birdsong and whooshing stars

The soothing soundscape designed for the new hospital was the first of its kind in Finland and unique in the world.
Student's working on New Children's Hospital soundscape

The main lobby of the New Children’s Hospital features a large aquarium surrounded by a sound shower where visitors can stop to listen to the sound of footsteps in the forest or waves lapping against the shore. On the upper floors, patients can enjoy soundscapes inspired by Moomin stories, from the hooting sounds of the jungle to ethereal songs from outer space. The sounds allow the patients to escape for a moment to sunny days and playtime.

‘The soundscape is designed to make the hospital more enjoyable for the child patients and reduce their restlessness as they wait for a procedure or investigation, says Docent in Paediatrics Pekka Lahdenne, who is the project manager in charge of the functional design of the New Children’s Hospital.

‘To our knowledge, such an extensive designed soundscape has not been implemented in any other hospital environment in the world. This is a unique project,’ he continues.

Seagulls of Harakka Island and the lull of the Baltic Sea

The sounds of the sea in the hospital’s main lobby were recorded on Harakka Island in Helsinki. In the second floor’s jungle-themed soundscape, you can hear the call of a gecko. For samples of the soundscapes on different floors, go here.

The hospital’s sound content was tailored based on research knowledge on the calming thoughts and pleasant memories evoked by nature sounds. The added sounds are subtle enough to feed the listener’s imagination gently, and they may be heard only in the lifts and in a few carefully selected spaces in the building. The content of the sounds is consistent with the visual appearance of each floor and changes depending on the season and time of day.

‘The soundscape is implemented kaleidoscopically, which means that the sonic appearance of the sounds is slightly different each time,’ says Lecturer Antti Ikonen from Aalto University.

Impacts of the soundscape to be studied

The patients, parents and staff will have a chance to give their opinions on the soundscape in a follow-up study, the results of which will be used to fine-tune the soundscape.

‘Feedback from the children and their families as well as from the hospital staff is valuable for us in developing the soundscape into an element that makes the hospital environment as enjoyable as possible for everyone in the future,’ says Docent Outi Ampuja from the University of Helsinki.    

The soundscape of the New Children’s Hospital was designed and implemented by master’s students majoring in Sound in New Media in Aalto University’s Media Lab under the instruction of University Lecturer Antti Ikonen. In addition to Ikonen, the project steering group consists of noise and voice researcher, Docent Outi Ampuja from the University of Helsinki and otologist and Docent Miikka Peltomaa from the University of Helsinki. The project was sponsored by Genelec Oy, Panphonics Oy and Järvenpään yrittäjät. 

Photo: Student's working at the New Children's Hospital during the last weekend before opening.

Further information:

Antti Ikonen, University Lecturer, Aalto University, email: [email protected] , tel. 050 5663471

Outi Ampuja, Docent, University of Helsinki, e-mail: [email protected], tel. 0500 727 353

Jonna Suometsä, Communication Officer, HUS, email: [email protected], tel. 050 4648658

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