Use architectural design to treat mental illness

Residents living in the Taube Pavilion in Mountain View, California, can see the lush Santa Cruz Mountains when they sleep together. After that, they will have breakfast in the transparent communal space and spend a day in the well-maintained courtyard.

This sounds like a holiday destination, but Taube Pavilion is actually a $98 million mental health center that only opened in June 2020 and is part of the El Camino Hospital (El Camino Hospital).

It was designed by WRNS Studio and covers an area of ​​56,000 square feet (approximately 5,200 square meters). Its design conforms to the wave of new buildings that have gradually been stripped from the outdated hospital design.

For decades, mental hospitals have looked terrifying. The patients crowded in the common room during the day and stayed in the dormitory at night. However, new research on the impact of the environment on health is promoting the development of medical buildings. The new buildings are more life-like and the entrances are no longer so scary.

In large buildings, there are smaller living units and various gathering places. Natural elements also play a big role: from the window, you can find decorative walls dotted with green plants, and the open-air venue allows patients and hospital staff to enjoy the sun and fresh air.

This kind of architectural design is more healing. The environment it creates can calm people down and at the same time give people strength. The new crown epidemic has caused a surge of mental health problems, and such architectural designs are more in line with people’s needs.

“This topic is a cliché, and it’s only now being further developed.” said Mardelle McCuskey Shepley, director of the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at the School of Human Ecology at Cornell University in New York.

According to data from the US Mental Health Research Center, even before the outbreak, the number of Americans suffering from mental illness has reached a new high. 1 in 5 adults suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental illness. Adolescents (about 50%) and young adults (about 30%) have a higher proportion of the disease.

The outbreak has caused many people to suffer. According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, young people of all ages, blacks, and Latinos all said that their levels of anxiety and depression have increased, and drug abuse has increased. A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans believe their mental health is “the worst in nearly 20 years.”

The demand for psychotherapy is also increasing sharply, and the construction of psychotherapy centers has exceeded other specialized hospitals. According to the American Society of Medical Engineering, 40% of the specialty hospitals under construction last year were psychotherapy hospitals and behavioral health centers.

Companies that focus on medical architecture and interior design also said that their business volume has increased. Francis Murdock Pitts, the main founder and partner of Architecture+, said that there are currently one or two large mental health centers under planning, and the total cost of these projects is approximately $250 million a year. In 2020, the company has done 16 large-scale mental health projects with a total value of approximately US$1.9 billion.

Architecture+ and similar companies have hired designers with medical backgrounds, who are responsible for transforming relevant research into more realistic designs. “It’s not just about warmth and comfort.” Pizzi said.

For example, exposure to nature can reduce the level of cortisol—the latter is a measure of stress; adding a healing garden and increasing greenery can not only soothe emotional patients, but also give employees a good place to reduce stress.

Research on the living environment in psychological rehabilitation is also playing a role. Studies have shown that providing private rooms and adding more public spaces can reduce the pressure on patients and staff and reduce the aggressiveness of patients while alleviating congestion. In addition, reducing noise will also have certain effects, such as silencing medical equipment as much as possible. Experts say that if patients are less nervous, they may recover faster and be more able to persevere.

However, due to the wide variety of mental health problems, there is no one-size-fits-all design solution. And, for patients and employees, safety always comes first.

After years of research and polishing, there are no objects in the treatment center that could be used by patients to harm themselves and others.

The glass window is made of special material and is not easy to break; the device on the door can be opened quickly, even if the patient shuts himself in the room, the caregiver can enter; the design of the piping system and other fixed facilities also eliminates the possibility of the patient hanging or strangling Sex.

A state-of-the-art treatment center for young people in Monterey, California, is the best practice of this new construction method. In November 2020, Montage Health, a non-profit treatment facility, opened its doors.

Here, there is a facility called Ohana, which means a larger concept than home in Hawaiian. Younger patients can receive treatments that require the participation of parents and siblings from time to time here.

Susan Swick, the attending physician in Ohana, said that early treatment is very important, because half of the lifelong mental illnesses will appear before the age of 15, and 3/4 of the diseases will be at the age of 24. Showed before.

She invited the architects of NBBJ to design a building with the effect of a children’s museum or a public library-“a place where you can feel the infinite possibilities as soon as you enter the door.”

This building is located on the hillside, overlooking the verdant valley, surrounded by beautiful old oak trees, there are wards, treatment centers, classrooms, and courtyards for people to meet and do yoga.

“It’s not only good-looking, but also well-intentioned.” NBBJ managing partner Richard Dallam (Richard Dallam) said.

Although Ohana looks complicated in structure, it is assembled with modules made of cross-laminated timber and does not require on-site assembly, which saves costs and speeds up construction.