Innovative and humanistic psychiatry

The psychiatric clinic at Södra Älvsborg Hospital (SÄS) inspires patients to engage with the place and with nature. Through their work with healing architecture, the architects aim to create the best possible healing environment for patients.

Photo: Felix Gerlach

Weather permitting, patients and staff at Södra Älvsborg Hospital’s psychiatric clinic can enjoy the morning sun shining through the pine trees in the courtyard. This is just one of the healing design principles behind the project, which is designed to give patients a sense of freedom, independence and personal responsibility.

In addition to a rehabilitation unit and administrative offices, the psychiatric clinic consists of an 80-bed psychiatric emergency ward for adults, as well as a 10-bed ward for children and adolescents.
The clinic itself is not far from the centre of Borås, and based on input from users and employees, White Arkitetker has successfully created a modern public building – without an institutional feel.

In spring 2021, Södra Älvsborg Hospital was shortlisted for the prestigious European Healthcare Design Awards in the Mental Health Design category.

Light with carefully chosen materials

The clinic, which consists of two renovated buildings and two brand new ones, is designed and sited to make the most of the healing properties of natural daylight. For example, patients can enjoy the sunrise on east-facing patios. In fact, all the patient rooms and other rooms offer views towards either the surrounding parks or forests, which supports a sense of freedom.

Transparent screens around the courtyards prevent escape, but also alleviate feelings of imprisonment. A winding path leads to the garden near the rehabilitation unit to allow patients to go for longer walks and take exercise.

Freedom – to be alone or with others

The clinic has been designed to allow patients to be alone, while also making it possible to spend time with others. All the patient rooms are single rooms with their own balcony, providing direct access to the open air. Patients and employees can meet in a number of small living rooms and also in the large canteen.

Moreover, the employees have secure rooms where they can retreat and take a break during their intensive shifts, all in a light and friendly design.

The acoustics also play an important role. In the large entrance/check-in area with its information desk and interview areas, Troldtekt acoustic panels have been installed to ensure that everyone arriving at the clinic is met by pleasant acoustics.

“Sound is an environmental factor that we’re very keen to incorporate correctly in psychiatric building projects. Creating subdued and comfortable acoustics in a room helps to counteract the stress and anxiety that can otherwise be triggered by a noisy environment,” explains Peter Johnstone, an architect at White Arkitekter.

“The choice of materials also plays a key role. We like wood, because it adds warmth and naturalness. The materials, together with the excellent acoustics, contribute positively to the healing,” he adds.

>> You can read more about White Arkitekter’s work with healing architecture in this article