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  • [healthcare] Center for Mental Illness, Greece

    me and my partner at uni are about to choose a subject for our last major project. My partner came up with the idea about doing a center for mentally ill people.
    We were both excited at first with that project, because here in greece, the medical treatment and the facilities for these poeple are not only inadequate but inhuman.
    But after a while of thinking, many questions came up. How moral is the way that our society treat these person? Who is that, who can say tha someone is mentally ill or not, and what kind of treatment is to isolate people with not actually a hope for cure?
    Finally my question is, how an architect react when a project that is against to his beliefs comes up? For example, a prison? How you design a place where poeple suffer?

  • #2
    its up to you how you'll go about the problem, considering your designing for the mentally ill. its not seeing it as against your beliefs but how you can propose a better solution to an old problem.


    • #3
      I agree with nyl, maybe you can take inspiration from Aalto aproach to Paimio Sanitarium. He found the problems and solved them with his architecture.

      In my opinion those people must interact with each other and the world,so the purpose of this project might be the one of designing a place where people feel like a part of a big comunity. Where "ill" and "normal" live togheter and learn from each other. As you have said, who is "ill"? often we learn more when we're in contact with people that are considered "strange", "mad", "useless". But it is very difficult to understand this, and to make it understood if you live in a blind society.


      • #4
        Originally posted by tessa_yuck View Post
        Finally my question is, how an architect react when a project that is against to his beliefs comes up? For example, a prison? How you design a place where poeple suffer?
        I think when you are tackling designs that are more difficult research is very important. Understanding what the people in question need is what you need inorder to create a successful design and by studying precedents and seeing the pros and cons of those designs can help you achieve a better solution.

        As with the prison thing, even if that is againts your beliefs, put yourself in the shoes of the people who are going to be locked behind bars and the people who work there, also put urself in the shoes of the victim of the criminal. Yes the criminal suffers behind bars but they are there becasue they did something wrong.

        Good luck with project!


        • #5
          I think your first step would be to do a proper investigation into mental illnesses. What kind of illnesses are there? Whick kind of illnesses can be treated at home? which kind gets you hospitalized? for how long? What kind of behaviour does it genereate? What kind of environment would you like to be in if you had that illness? What kind of people are treated in there? are they 'prisons' or hospitals? Do people have any chance of getting better or are they just locked away? What does such an environment need if you're treated there? and if you work there? etc etc.

          Im not sure but your questions imply to me you think people are forced into those places against their will. For some a place like that is an absolute nessecity and no prison at all. They might be releived for some time. For some it is a prison though they might never get out of just because they are a danger to others or to themselves.

          good luck!


          • #6
            It is a very lengthy subject

            many years ago the UK adopted "Care in the Community" : closed down or reduced facilities in hospitals & institutions & rehoused most of these people in smaller facilities, some went to ordinary homes some to purpose built accommodation. The purpose was to integrate people into the community & to make them more acceptable, & not to hide them away. It became somewhat of a growth industry.
            Some real horror stories were revealed in the process.

            Truth is it is the general public that needed re-education to accept.

            From what I see the smaller homes converted for use are / were more successful than small purpose built accomodation (these always had a feel of an institution about them) Though conversion is not always ideal when dealing with physical handicap.

            The subject is vast & I suggest you concentrate on research of methods adopted in various countries before deciding on the architecture type you want to design.


            • #7
              Originally posted by tessa_yuck View Post
              For example, a prison? How you design a place where people suffer?
              Here is a thread about Architecture of Incarceration


              • #8

                Institutions for the Mentally Ill are just one of many so called theurapeutic Communities, whereas the sponsor of the project has within its institutional priorities the modification of the behavior of those that act as participants of the programs the project houses. The main problem is that the participants usually are not able to choose if they remain within it's walls or not. Prisons, hospices, nursing homes and institutions for the mentally ill are among the institutions that share this particular trait.

                The problem is therefore that of understanding the role the institution wishes to play, and is ready and willing to pay for, as well as the roles the participants do play within their walls, separate the institution into distinct settings where particular activities take place and identify the conflicts that inevitably arise therein.

                Your particular spatial solution should propose to "solve" the most evident and poignant conflicts, with compromises that aspire to match, enhance and support these "roles' succesfully.

                Don't get lost in a list of needs, 'needs' are neccesarily seen exclusively from the outlook of each party, you'll never be able to meet these so called 'needs'. Your best bet is in recognizing conflicts and attempting to solve them, strictly from the spatial and operational point of view.

                I find that the notion of providing for those that cannot choose to leave a space we design most challenging. I hope you do too.




                • #9
                  This came up today


                  A leading charity has backed a plan for electronic tagging of dementia sufferers.

                  The Alzheimer's Society said the plan could empower patients by giving them more freedom to wander off and could help families care for patients for longer.

                  The tags use satellite tracking systems similar to those used for offenders and would only be used with the patient's consent.

                  The society says many dementia sufferers feel a compelling urge to walk, with 40% getting lost when they wander, distressing themselves and their families.

                  Chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, Neil Hunt, told reporters the technology "could offer benefits" to people with dementia and their carers.

                  He said: "There is a careful balance to strike between empowering people and restricting their movement and this technology can certainly never be used as an alternative for high-quality dementia care."

                  In April this year the plan was put forward by Science Minister Malcolm Wicks to a mixed reception.

                  Speaking at the time, Mr Wicks said: "We've got an ageing population with many people frail and many suffering from dementia, including Alzheimer's.

                  "How can we get the balance right so that these people have the freedom to live their lives, to go out in the community and go shopping?"

                  There are about 700,000 people in the UK with dementia, which mainly affects older people. A large proportion of those have Alzheimer's disease. That figure is set to rise to more than one million in 20 years and to 1.7 million by 2050 - an increase of 154% over the next 45 years.


                  • #10
                    I think Kaas has a good point. What type of mental illness is to be treated?
                    There is a broad spectrum of 'mental illness' with respect to different types of mental handicaps and pchycological disorders.
                    To me this institution could be a type of assisted living facility where there are varying arrays of dependance. Not a prison, but a place where people can live their fullest with assistance to perform the tasks of life they may not be capable of.
                    In the beginning it will depend on what specific types of illness you are looking to accomodate to determine what the project will become.

                    I look forward to seeing what you come up with.
                    Good luck.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tessa_yuck View Post
                      How moral is the way that our society treat these person? Who is that, who can say that someone is mentally ill or not, and what kind of treatment is to isolate people with not actually a hope for cure?
                      Finally my question is, how an architect react when a project that is against to his beliefs comes up? For example, a prison? How you design a place where poeple suffer?
                      I guess people who say if someone is mentally ill or not are scientists and do so based on scientific criteria. If these people are treated in an inhuman way I'm sure specialists will be the first ones to point that out.
                      As architects we're supposed to provide adequate spaces for human activity, to me it seems arrogant to think that we're somehow "illuminated" and have a valid oppinion about everything.
                      Even if as individuals we can and maybe we should have our own oppinion about everything, as architects we should stick to our field - are you supposed to question our political system if you're to design a national parliament? Are you supposed to question labour relations if you're to design a factory? The way I choose to live if you're to design my house?...
                      Ours is a multi-disciplinary work. You should learn from specialists about the specific spacial needs of a facility for the mentally ill and give it the best desing response you can. Don't be presumptuous to the point of thinking you know what's the best way to take care of those people, talk to those who know.
                      Good luck with your work.