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The Balloon Tree

Artist Name(s) Róisín de Buitléar
Artwork title The Balloon Tree
Context/Background The new children’s hospital on the grounds of St James’s Hospital is the most ambitious healthcare development in the island of Ireland in terms of scale, design and clinical care. The project brought together three existing children’s hospitals - Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital and the National Children’s Hospital at Tallaght Hospital – into one organization in the lead up to move to the new hospital. A key part of the project is the creation of two facilities located at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown and Tallaght Hospital which opened in 2019 and 2021 respectively. These provide urgent and ambulatory care (Connolly) and emergency care (Tallaght) to the greater Dublin area and better local access to general paediatric and outpatient services. Designed by HLM and Coady’s Architects, these Centres reflect leading international practice for enhanced clinical outcomes by localising services as close to the child’s home as possible. The signature artworks were commissioned for integration into the main entrance spaces in the two facilities. This is where children, young people and their families / guardians wait for their outpatients appointments, or pass through on their way to other services. These artworks work as a pair, one in each site, engaging children of all ages and creating a strong visual identity for these new facilities.

The Balloon Tree artworks playfully welcome children, young people and families to two facilities located at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown and Tallaght Hospital. The signature artworks, by artist Róisín de Buitléar, were commissioned for integration into the main entrance spaces in the two facilities. Both trees have similar construction methods; one round and plump, the other tall and conical. Both are reminiscent of a child’s drawing and filled with colourful glass balloons which nestle in their branches. Just as these centres take care of children and young people, the trees gather up the ‘lost’ balloons and mind them. Balloons also ‘float’ through the buildings, turning up in unlikely locations - corridors, stairwells, waiting and procedure rooms.

In the words of the artist: 'I was inspired by young people I met from the CHI Youth Advisory Council [during the Research and Development phase of the project]. In their wish list were the following ideas: an airy atmosphere while in hospital, something that would inspire you to escape the mundane, a feeling of optimism, of the outdoors, something that would surprise you, or something to make you smile. They specifically wanted something that would appeal to a child and teenager.'

The commission comprised three stages of work – design development during which the artist mitigated risks associated with the proposed artwork, fabrication and installation. The trees were made from welded steel by Grogan’s Engineering in Dublin and the balloons were mouth blown by Róisín at Benefield Spencer Studio Glass in Northern Ireland for Connolly and at Pierini Glass Studio in France for Tallaght. All were finished at the artist’s studio in Dublin.

As part of the design development stage, the artist engaged children and young people attending CHI Crumlin, CHI Temple Street and CHI Tallaght through a series of creative encounters in the play rooms and at the bed side in which children, young people and their parents imagined where travelling balloons might go to through making a series of postcards to post out to loved ones.

The research and development phase of the commission was funded by the Per Cent for Art Scheme. The Balloon Tree commission was funded by the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght Foundation.


The fabrication of the balloons for Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Connolly and the installation of the sculpture was documented in a short film by Morgan Creative. This was viewed by children, young people and families waiting in the centre:

A shorter version of this film was released via social media:

The Balloon Tree in Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Tallaght was photographed by Brian Cregan.


Born in Dublin, Róisín de Buitléar is an artist and educator who has been working in the medium of glass as a primary material since 1983.

She has completed many site-specific installations drawing her inspiration from her cultural heritage. These can be seen in public and private buildings throughout Ireland, including the Blasket Island Centre, Dunchaoin, Co. Kerry; National Botanic Gardens, Dublin; W5 Belfast, Northern Ireland; Ballyroan Public Library, Dublin; and the Basilica of Knock, Co. Mayo. Spanning architecture, sculpture, and design, her artwork is also represented in national collections in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Britain, Japan, China and USA.


Commission Type Other
Commissioner Name Children’s Health Ireland (CHI)
Commissioning process Open competition
Project commission dates March 1, 2018 - November 1, 2021
Public Presentation dates June 30, 2019 - January 1, 1970
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts and health,Young people children and the arts
Funded By Department of Health
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 70000 - 150000 euro
Project commission start date 01/03/2018
Project commission end date 01/11/2021
Location Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) Connolly and Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) Tallaght
County Dublin
Town Dublin
Street Address Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) Connolly, Connolly Hospital, Mill Rd, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, D15 X40D Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) Tallaght, Belgard Square North, Tallaght, Dublin 24, D24 TN3C
Content contributor(s) Mary Grehan
Relationship to project Curator
Public engagement

In May / June 2018, as part of the development of the proposed artwork, the artist engaged with children, young people and their families attending Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) in Tallaght, Temple Street and Crumlin in making postcards for loved ones which explored the concept of the travelling balloon.

Associated professionals / Specialists involved
  • Coadys Architects
  • Grogans Engineering
  • Garlands Engineering
  • Benefield Spencer Studio
  • Glass Pierini Glass Studio