San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hospital Displays MultiColored Tree of Life

Standing over patients in the Clínica Bíblica Hospital’s newest building is an enormous tree, composed of approximately 40,000 pieces of stained glass. The work – which is set into the side of the building, split between floors – is an expression of what hospital administrators see as the medical center’s mission, as well as a contribution to the beautification and rejuvenation of downtown San José.

During the dedication of the private hospital’s new building (see separate story), attendees were explained the significance of the tree with a passage from the Bible: “In the midst of the street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

“Trees grow naturally as a source of subsistence or they are planted to celebrate special occasions. To adorn its new building, the Clínica Bíblica Hospital has chosen this esteemed symbol of refuge that makes us think of providence and divine care,” said a pamphlet on the work of art handed out at the dedication ceremony July 20.

According to Medical Director Jorge Cortés, the stained glass and the new building are both part of an ongoing effort to bring life and art back to the downtown San José area.

The enormous glass image is the work of Costa Rican stained glass artist Celita Ulate, who began the labor in September 2005. Ulate, who originally graduated from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) with a degree in psychology, is a member of the Stained Glass Association of America and the founder, coordinator and a teacher at the Vitricolor de Costa Rica stained glass workshop, which gives classes and trains professors in glass techniques. Ulate has been working with stained glass for 10 years, she said, and learned the art at the UCR.

Ulate explained that she had the daughter of the building’s architect in one of the classes she gives at Vitricolor de Costa Rica, and so the architect had sought her out for the project.

“They wanted a theme that could be explained by a Bible verse that had to do with health,” Ulate said. “So I looked and found one in Apocalypse 22, the Tree of Life.”

The glass tree – which is separated into sections on five floors, but is visible in its entirety from the hospital’s parking lot – is done in “comforting colors,” and gives patients “an image of tranquility and well being” as they arrive to the hospital, she continued.

“People are resting under a tree – that is a theme everybody can identify with,” she said.

The tree also has significance for the area surrounding the hospital, the artist added.

“The city has lost a lot, especially in this area. There is very little nature – it’s all construction,” Ulate said. “Putting a tree here, even if it’s ornamental, says nature is still alive.”

Ulate’s works can be found in different churches, businesses and residences in Costa Rica, including the Central America Church, in Tibás, north of San José, and the Buen Pastor Convent, in Alajuela northwest of San José, according to Clínica Bíblica spokeswoman Susana Guzmán.


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