A Hamlet-like paradox
In our research for Ellsinore Psychiatric Clinic, not only did we make intensive analysis of the program and need of the client. We also interviewed the daily users of the clinic: Staff, patients and relatives.
The different input from this research did not give any clear answers as to what the clinic should be like. Rather they pointed out several conflicting qualities and ambiguities that we brought into the project by transforming them into a Hamlet-like paradox of the program, and we have designed a project that simultaneously strives to be AND not to be a psychiatric hospital.
Grounding Ellsinore Psychiatric Clinic on 2 different levels makes the building literally grow into the green and hilly landscape. Half hidden in nature the clinic thus avoids spoiling the view from the existing somatic hospital and at the same time provides its users with a multitude of experiences of the lake and woods.
The roof construction of the building is another key element in the clinics contextual disguise. At places where the building is half rooted underground the green lawn slips over the roof, this way making the clinic a natural environment for the cure of mental illness.
To be AND not to be
To many psychiatric patients a safe and calm environment is crucial to their well-being. Surroundings, that reminds them of their illness, cause instability and the feeling of being insecure. Besides, to meet the requirements of modern psychiatric treatment, an architectural redefinition of the traditional hospital typology was necessary.
In the design concept for Ellsinore Psychiatric Clinic we have avoided all clinical stereotypes: the traditional hospital hallway without windows and rooms on both sides; artificial easy-cleaning materials like plastic paint, linoleum floors or ceilings made of gypsum, etc. All materials have their natural surfaces. Cast floors in concrete or lively colours and walls made of glass, wood and concrete. Functionally the hospital is tailor-made to modern psychiatric treatment and therapy. Experientially the hospital appears as anything but a hospital.
The psychiatric hospital is organized as to give the best conditions for health care. Effectively and rationally minimizing walking distance, and at the same time providing individual sections with a maximum of autonomy and intimate spaces where the users can feel themselves almost at home.
Part of the hospital contains observed treatment areas where patients for the good of self protection and their surroundings will have limited freedom to move, though without feeling claustrophobically trapped.
The day-and-night sections are spatially open, both offering an overall view to the staff and careful not to make the patients feel themselves observed or under surveillance.
The psychiatric hospital offers rooms for socializing and spontaneous meetings between people and at the same time opportunities for seclusion and contemplation.
Functionally the psychiatric clinic is organized into 2 main programs: a program for living and a program for treatment. The two parts consist of many different and individual functions that nevertheless must work together. First we carefully designed each program and then transformed them into an integrated, but differential whole.
By using a clover structure in organizing the residential program we managed to orient each patients room toward its own part of the landscape – two sets of rooms facing the lake, and one set of rooms facing the surrounding hills. That way the intimate living program has been folded into the landscape being on a level with the lake. Between the functions emerges a new collective space that is embraced by offices and bed units, and populated by small patios.
The public treatment program on the other hand is placed on a level with the existing hospital and is organized as 5 individual pavilions, combined into a snowflake structure by the central space. Day sections, out-patients clinic and department of district psychiatry gather around the arrival areas. The individual units contain offices and treatment rooms to one side and waiting areas to the other side. All parts of the building are fused at one single point, right above the center of the clover structure.
The galleries of the treatment program propagate as a snowflake crystal in all directions and in varying lengths according to the size of the individual units. One of the galleries breaks off as a bridge to the existing hospital and becomes a flexible structure for expansion due to future development and needs.