Visitor Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Situated in the premises of the former Whitchutch Mental Hospital, the new visitor centre is a welcoming space for people concerned with their mental wellbeing that provides a place of refuge and diversion in a homely environment with cancer and hospice patients from the nearby facilities in mind. The welfare of the future includes the emotional needs and supports the psychological growth of all citizens, striving for a society in which everyone is seen and heard (rather than manipulated and subjected to surveillance, which are the degenerate siblings of being seen and heard).
I wanted to communicate interest and respect for the past of the place, on one hand preserving the most recognisable features of the hospital which echo the Edwardian era. On the other hand, I sought new forms to express the character/essence of the area and its historic significance in relation to the established healthcare infrastructure, which the marginalised architectonics of the asylum could not represent to a satisfactory degree. To celebrate the tradition of care and reinforce the new inclusive, palliative programme, I needed to establish a new attitude towards the environment and ecology of the site. It constitutes a reflection on history and culture of the place, opposing the custodial design of the old institution by forming clusters of huts designed around gardening, which used to be crucial for the hospital’s sustenance, and ungrounding the landscape to allow for maximum freedom of movement and clear sightlines throughout. It was all brought together in an eclectic mise-en-scène of timber, concrete and masonry, each of which served as a medium of transfer of information, i.e. the homeliness and ties with nature in the case of timber clustered huts and their effect on mental wellbeing.