Thursday, October 17, 2013

[RE]IMAGINE the “Sick” Space

By Brittany Ricker

Being a graduate student we have recently begun writing our abstract for our thesis designs.

Freedoms are limited in a psychiatric hospital as it is; you do not get shoelaces (this is where Crocs come in handy), extension cords, razor blades, make-up mirrors or even a spork, which by the way you were capable of using in the first grade. Aside from the obvious safety precautions that seem relatively smart and have facts to prove these are rational decisions, why is it that the building design itself is stripped down to the bare minimum, leaving it cold and sterile? A very small percentage of mental health facilities have access to a secure outdoor patio or some form of space with natural light and fresh air. Evidence has shown that physical activity and fresh air can be therapeutic to patients with mental illness. Without this space most inpatients will go months without any access to fresh air, this would make even the sanest person go ballistic.

Doing away with the “cage” feel and appearance of all medical/mental facilities would be an ideal solution, but the transition has to start somewhere. This design proposes a stress-reducing psychiatric facility that can reduce human aggression to calm emotionally troubled patients through architecture. A design that fully integrates all five senses encouraging recovery or relief of pain. The design will focus on sensorial spaces for exhibition, allowing the senses to become the subject of the exhibition itself along with providing artistic and therapeutic workshops for all the patients. Incorporating the five senses plays a crucial role to provide opportunities that are currently unavailable in most hospital facilities. The patient should have some say in the treatment process as well, giving them treatment plan options and providing a variety of therapies to choose from.

Mental hospitals are very misunderstood places. A certain stigma is attached to being a patient along with the whole field of mental health. This needs to change. A good portion of people enter mental facilities voluntarily, as I did, later to find that it was an awful experience and I was not comfortable being in that environment. Aside from the daily group meetings and one-on-one sessions with the specialist, there is no positive interaction with patients from the remaining staff. Providing a space that promotes social interaction, a place for privacy when needed and designing spaces around actual needs versus “what is affordable and safe” will not solve all mental illness but it is proven that these steps do help with most recovery/ rehabilitation of patients. Researching a combination of evidence-based care and feedback from patients available will guide the design and reasoning for the psychiatric hospital.
The postcard was meant to give a brief snapshot of my thesis. Since I want to incorporate the 5+ senses… I thought I would try to evoke the emotions within the graphics and show the typical senses at the bottom. Most people tend to only think of the basic five senses but there aren't just five. 

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