Westmead Health Precinct tree guards form protective embrace

Artist Jane Cavanough, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network project officer Gabriella Galea, Westmead Redevelopment redesign director Carla Edwards, PwC senior consultant Amani Choudhury and artist Malcolm Cooke.

Sculptural artist Jane Cavanough’s latest work is a careful acknowledgement to one of the oldest binding documents in history, the Hippocratic Oath.

Her sculptural work Trees of Hippocrates forms a protective embrace around two original cuttings from the Tree of Hippocrates in Greece. The ancient tree is said to be where the father of medicine Hippocrates taught his pupils.

Jane’s work now sits proudly in the front plaza of the Central Acute Services Building (CASB) with the cuttings sourced by the University of Sydney and provided as a gift to Westmead Hospital and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead to symbolise the collaboration and commitment between the three organisations.

“I wanted to reflect the protective quality of the phrase in the Hippocratic Oath, ‘first, do no harm’, which was the starting point to my entire design process,” Jane said.

“It was important to instil this throughout the development, ensuring the ethical understanding of the 17th century statement formed the basis of my work.”

While this shaped the foundation of her art, Jane was also deeply influenced by DNA molecules and its coil and patterns.

“The tree guards and its shape are inspired by the structure of DNA, composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, function and reproduction of all known living organisms,” she said.

“The curvings of the bands formed around the Trees of Hippocrates are an expression of these DNA molecules.”

Stainless steel was chosen for its longevity and colour which binds kindly with the external materials of the CASB.

The work was hand-forged by renowned blacksmith Glenn Moon in Braidwood.

Jane said while stainless steel was beautiful and sounded very simple, her design was incredibly complex to make.

“The interlinking embraces of the bends and bands of the steel were individually hand-pressed, leaving behind these incredibly unique patterns in the steel you won’t see anywhere else.

“The longevity means the steel will stand the test of time, hopefully like that of the original Tree of Hippocrates in Greece, planted over 2400 years ago!”

Jane’s project forms part of the Westmead Redevelopment Arts and Culture Strategy, aimed to help improve the health, wellbeing and experience of visitors to the Westmead Health Precinct.

Tamsin Sridher, University of Sydney program manager, said the University was thrilled with the completion of the collaborative project.

“The Trees of Hippocrates celebrate our close partnerships at the Westmead Health Precinct and commitment to education, health and wellbeing,” Tamsin said.

“We look forward to enjoying the sculptural work from the ground within the front plaza, and looking out from the University’s floors in the new Central Acute Services Building.”

Carla Edwards, director Redevelopment Redesign and Transformation noted that the connection to nature and green spaces was a focal point of this work.

“Having open, green spaces was an extremely important part of our new Hospital design and Jane’s work connecting the Hippocratic Oath was the connecting piece for staff and the community,” Carla said.

“The protective barriers her work forms around the Trees of Hippocrates is a powerful context in healthcare, the future of the community and the connection to the Westmead Health Precinct.”

The Arts and Culture Strategy brings together partners from Westmead Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and the University of Sydney.

The Westmead Health Precinct is one of the largest health, education, research and training precincts in Australia and a key provider of jobs for the greater Parramatta and western Sydney region.