Bringing back society to the mental institutions

by Stijlgroep on 02/12/2010

The combination of society and psychiatric institution sites

On Friday 12 November 2010, a very interesting symposium on the redevelopment of psychiatric institutions was held in Zeist. The symposium focused primarily on the way in which the care/accommodation of psychiatric patients could be combined with social functions and construction of housing (for non-patients). Combining the functions would make it easier for these patients to be able to reintegrate into society later. Directors of institutions, architects, urban developers and landscape architects worked together to try to find the most suitable redevelopment plan for this type of site. Architectuurfonds: De woning en het gesticht

Care at psychiatric institution sites

An explanation for the present intention to bring society back onto the site lies primarily in the way in which the view of care for psychiatric patients has changed.

19th century: Separate sites
The first psychiatric institutions provided care and living facilities in buildings in a built-up environment. Patients there were protected from any kind of stimuli but it also became apparent that they became alienated from society.

1980s: Separate sites providing care and living in the city
In order to enable patients to reintegrate more effectively, dwelling units were sought in the city and a part of the site, where care was the only thing still being provided, became vacant. For some patients, this turned out to be an effective solution, but others were bombarded with stimuli and turned to criminal behaviour and addiction.

1990s: Returning living facilities to sites and combining them with other functions
Efforts have since been made to rejuvenate the sites, which had now become part of the city due to its considerable expansion, by bringing living facilities for psychiatric patients back on-site. Moreover, the addition of social functions on the sites provides better opportunities for reintegration for patients who are more independent and less dependent on help from others. Furthermore, the built-up environment provides a useful geographical setting for new-build dwellings (for non-patients) who are able to provide financial support to the institutions that have since been privatised.

Division into zones at psychiatric institution sites

The splendid built-up environment is a privilege for the redevelopment of these sites and could be put to better use by condensing the path network or adding kitchen gardens, for example. In addition, a variety of dwelling types and care complexes could meet future inhabitants’ need for ‘external stimuli’ through the provision of designated outside spaces such as patios, indoor gardens and the surrounding landscape. By employing subtle property boundaries, an impression of security is provided whilst people are still able to experience one another’s lifestyles. This can foster understanding for one another’s situation. If feasible, the existing building work will be used as much as possible and new buildings will be constructed for the additional programme.

Stijlgroep projects

All of these intervention measures can also be found in the psychiatric institutions, the surroundings of which have been redeveloped by Stijlgroep, the landscape and urban design company. Some examples that we have worked on include the Delta Psychiatric Centre in Poortugaal and Rivierduinen in Oegstgeest, while work on Hernesseroord in Middelharnis is currently underway. Although fully combining functions often seems an idealistic vision, its designers and institution directors have actually come to the conclusion that creating user zones in this way, ones that are interwoven into the environment in a natural way, is the most desirable solution.

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