Concrete Quarterly

From the Archive

Summer 1973 - William Mitchell's x-ray ceiling 

William Mitchell, who died in January at the age of 94, was one of the most prolific concrete sculptors of the post-war era, and his works – which adorned everything from shopping centres to cathedrals – featured regularly in CQ throughout the 1960s and 70s. Even so, his ceiling mural at Clatterbridge Hospital in Liverpool, completed in 1973, still had the capacity to surprise (and delight) our correspondent. “This is the first time that we have ever featured (or seen) a decorative concrete ceiling, but now that we come to think of it, the idea has tremendous possibilities, particularly if the ceiling is going to be lit.” (Here, the work was accentuated by lighting concealed behind timber coving on the walls.)

Mitchell carved the design into 51mm-thick foamed polyurethane mould liners, against which the 279mmthick roof slab was then cast using a standard mix. Because supports for the moulds would have spoiled the pattern, a system was devised involving cantilevered runs for barrows constructed over the ceiling.

For CQ, the finish ceiling was “doubly attractive” because it was functional, forming part of the reinforced concrete armour of the hospital’s radiation therapy unit – one of the most advanced in the country at that time.

It also responded to a therapeutic need identified by the hospital director, giving patients something to gaze up at and distract them while they were undergoing treatment.

For more examples of William Mitchell’s work, search the CQ archive at concretecentre.com/cqarchive

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