Future healing

Charlotte Juhasz
Tuesday 26 Apr 2011

Embracing design principles that stimulate the repair and restoration of mental health

To become a catalyst for the healing process, architecture needs to embody the calming and reflective nature of regeneration. Architects of the Nepean project in New South Wales (NSW), Woods Bagot explain: “As we witness the rapid development in the evolution of what technology and the techniques of contemporary healthcare practice bring, let’s not forget the core role that designers can play in providing enlightened solutions.”

A new insertion into an existing hospital complex at Nepean Hospital in Penrith, the Integrated Mental Health Unit project is focused on incorporating the mental health service into Nepean's existing hospital site and operations. Formulated as a stepped courtyard typology, the principle design concept sought to utilise the existing slope to create internalised green outdoor spaces.

The programmatic spaces swell around these central cores retaining them as protected inner sanctuaries. Generous solar access, visual connectivity, and a tapestry of landscaping which changes with the passage of time, allows regeneration to be become visibly tangible. By contrast the building exterior face seeks to respond to the surrounding hospital campus and public domain.

The building's steel and glazed facade is in stark contrast to the softer interior heart of the scheme and feeds into the existing campus language. The best answers lie when the right balance is met between design sensitivity to the needs of patients and staff and the acceptance of new technologies and models of service - neither one can overly dominate.

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