Psychiatric department in Esbjerg

Arkitema Architects was responsible for the refurbishment and extension of the psychiatric department in Esbjerg, which has light and airy interiors where wood is the dominant material. Glass walls add transparency to the interior, enhancing the sense of security for patients and staff alike. In the first year, the use of physical restraint fell by 70 per cent.

Troldtekt, Psychiatric ward Esbjerg
Photo: Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, architect

After being enlarged by more than 6,000 square metres, the psychiatric department in Esbjerg has almost doubled in size. Concurrently with the extension work, the existing facilities have been completely refurbished, so the entire department is now one of Denmark’s best examples of a modern psychiatric hospital.

The new facilities are connected to the original buildings by a new main entrance and a central concourse leading off to joint functions such as gyms and a sports hall. 

Arkitema was responsible for designing the new department, where transparency is a keyword. Stence Guldager, architect and senior creative manager, says:

“The project in Esbjerg is the first of its kind where we have incorporated glass walls to such an extent to provide overview and create visual contact between patients and staff. In some places, for example the sports hall, the walls are graded using coloured window film. This means that parts of some of the walls are only semi-transparent, but that the contours of people on the other side can still be seen.

Improved visibility, less physical restraint

Transparency is particularly important on the individual wards. The staff office is located so it affords views of both the door into the ward and the entire unit. Each ward has its own inner courtyard, which is surrounded by glass, making it possible to see across the courtyard and into the building on the opposite side.

The communal areas – including the sports hall – are centrally located and also with walls incorporating many glass sections. 

“The patients feel more inclined to use the communal facilities when they can see each other and the staff. It contributes significantly to their peace of mind,” says Stence Guldager.

Her words are substantiated by the statistics on the use of physical restraint at the department in Esbjerg. The department was inaugurated in 2014, and during its first year, the number of incidents of physical restraint fell by an impressive 70 per cent.

Wood, texture and colours

The buildings in Esbjerg are built of light brick, which on the facades are encircled by a white band and interrupted by the large windows. The facades are varied with small niches to create a more inviting and homely feel.

Inside, the interior is decorated in neutral and bright colours, with wood as a recurring element. The ceilings feature Troldtekt panels, which have been chosen for the communal areas to ensure good acoustics.

“Troldtekt ceilings also contribute a high degree of texturality, which contrasts well with the otherwise clean surfaces and lessens the institutional feel, making the patients feel more comfortable,” says Stence Guldager.

She goes on to explain that the artistic window films were chosen to add a dash of colour to the otherwise light and neutral interiors. In several places, the decorative films are also used for wayfinding.