Psychological advantage for Massachusetts

30 Mar 2011

Mental health facility designed to do the work of a hospital without feeling like one

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts selected Ellenzweig / architecture+  Associate Architects, to provide programming, siting alternatives, and conceptual design for a new 320 inpatient and adolescent residential treatment facility. The team was subsequently selected to design the facility. The brief was to provide a high-quality, safe and respectful environment that supports recovery and transition back to the community.

The facility melds the therapeutic and architectural programs such that the building becomes a recovery-focused clinical tool. Familiar elements are laid out to reflect the range of environments in which people live. Each element (house, neighbourhood and downtown) improves patient care. The house provides a place of privacy within a broader range of graduated social and therapeutic interactions. The size capitalises on a patient’s innate abilities to manage relationships within a smaller community.

The neighbourhood provides active programming space directly outside of the houses where patients can access programs without the absolute need for staff escort and with a gradual increase in the number of novel interactions with others. It also creates an intermediary zone between the quiet house and the active downtown. The downtown provides an active space containing resources that are shared by the entire hospital. This provides patients with a sense of existing within a broader community while encouraging them to look outward to life outside of the hospital.

The facility encompasses the most current thinking about care for the mentally ill. The building is flexible; it is patient-centered and staff-enabling; it focuses on the client’s goal of recovery; it does the work of a hospital without feeling like a hospital. The sustainable elements of the project include its siting on the footprint of a preexisting hospital that had been damaged by fire. The disturbed site area is virtually identical with the already developed site area. The building will qualify for LEED Gold.

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