We worked with NTC Architects to design this acute mental health facility at Northern Hospital, responding directly to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. The final report outlined the need for care environments that are supportive, caring, welcoming and safe for people who present to the mental health system in crisis.
A co-design process was undertaken to work with clinicians, nurses, stakeholders, and people who have lived experience of mental illness. Consultation continued throughout the design process to generate an innovative response to the functional design brief.
The design team worked with the client to place the facility at the front of the hospital campus with a direct sky link to the existing Emergency Department. This position seeks to destigmatise and give visibility to the significance of mental health services in an acute health setting. Long views from the shared consumer spaces out to the surrounding environment were preserved from the early internal planning stages of the project. These occur through the courtyards and out of glazed corridors to the east, and through windows at the end of the main patient corridors. These views become a passive method of wayfinding, allowing consumers locate themselves in the surrounding context rather than being lost in an institution. In this way consumers are able to navigate the hospital building, reducing stress and confusion.
The building is elevated above a carparking deck to retain site access, valuable carparking and to allow for future infill and expansion. A permeable screen was introduced, skirting the exposed lower levels, and giving the building a singular form.
Reducing consumer cohorts was a key finding of the Royal Commission. In response to this, five bedrooms are clustered together in three zones from high to low acuity on each level of the building. These cohorts can be further reduced if required for consumer safety. Each consumer zone has a shared living and dining space paired with an external courtyard.
Throughout the interiors, primacy has been given to the consumer spaces through the creation of safe, familiar, and therapeutic environments. Consumer areas were designed to be domestic and homely, while meeting an institutional level of robustness and code compliance. Timber grain and natural tones such as eucalyptus green and earthy red were incorporated into these spaces to generate a warm and calming environment.