New Department of Forensic Psychiatry: Privacy, views and security are top priorities

It will be a whole new world for patients at the new Department of Forensic Psychiatry at Mental Health Centre Sct. Hans in the Danish city of Roskilde

Whereas the secure ward used to be unmistakably prison-like, high walls have now been replaced by views and courtyards intended to support patient treatment.

Security is still top-notch.

The Department of Forensic Psychiatry at Mental Health Centre Sct. Hans is a mix between a prison and a psychiatric unit. The facility houses criminal patients who have been convicted of violent crimes and are still considered to be a danger to others due to mental illness or severe psychosis. Security was therefore naturally a high priority when KHR Architecture in 2012 – together with subconsultants Rubow Arkitekter, Opland Landskabsarkitekter and the engineering companies Oluf Jørgensen and Spangenberg & Madsen – was awarded the contract as consultants for the construction of the new Department of Forensic Psychiatry at Mental Health Centre Sct. Hans in Roskilde.

“Naturally, there has been a great deal of focus on security, both for patients and not least for the staff. It must be possible to section off the wards, and staff must be able to call for assistance. However, at the same time, focus has also been on the fact that it is a place where patients can receive treatment, and hopefully be cured,” says architect, technical manager and partner at KHR Architecture Henrik Richter Danielsen (photo).

Staggered units for views

The new Department of Forensic Psychiatry is due for completion in 2021 and consists of four wards. Each ward has approximately 32 patient rooms, and the units are concentrated around three inner courtyards. Two courtyards where patients can go outside and exercise or relax, and one reserved for the staff. Henrik Richter Danielsen says that in the design, the architects have made the most of the sloping terrain.

“The plot is highly terraced. There is a 12-metre height difference from the highest to the lowest point. By staggering the units height-wise, we’ve ensured that all the rooms have a view. The old department of forensic psychiatry consisted of a building surrounded by a four-metre high wall, which meant that patients were looking straight into a wall,” he explains, adding:

“Healing architecture is about giving patients the feeling of not being cut off from the outside world. Which is why the units feature a large window with a window seat, from where patients can enjoy the view. They can also close the shutters if they want some privacy,” he says.

Oak and superior acoustics

Henrik Richter Danielsen explains that in the layout of the patient rooms, the aim was to create a homely atmosphere that is easy to clean and where security remains top priority:

“In the rooms, the surfaces are white walls with built-in shelving and cabinets covered with an oak wood veneer. It adds warmth, and the same veneer was also used on the door to the bathroom,” he says.
In the corridor connecting the rooms, there is rubberised coating on the floors and Troldtekt acoustic ceilings to ensure good acoustics.

In the communal areas, there is also a kitchen where patients can cook together with staff and other patie

Bricks in the right yellow hue

The wards also project a homely feeling from the outside:

“We chose a yellowish brick with a slightly burnt hue and a family home look, even though our facades are 4.5 metres high so that patients cannot climb over them,” explains Henrik Richter Danielsen. A lot of work went into getting the yellow hue of the bricks just right for new Department of Forensic Psychiatry. And the bricklayers have been fully employed on the project for 18 months, laying 600,000 bricks.

Apart from with the brickwork and the large window sections in the patient rooms, the facades of the inner courtyards are clad with embossed fibre cement panels.

In addition to the four wards, the new Department of Forensic Psychiatry consists of a reception building that houses meeting rooms and temporary accommodation for relatives who are allowed to visit. The wards also overlook a large activity garden with an eight-metre drop. The garden is designed to be used as an exercise track for patients to run or walk around. But there are also communal areas with sculptures and art. Not all patients are allowed in this garden. Access to this area depends on how healthy and dangerous the patient is considered to be.

FACTS: New Department of Forensic Psychiatry

  • The project consists of four wards, outdoor and indoor communal activities as well as a reception building with staff and visitor facilities.
  • Each ward is designed as a cluster of three courtyards.
  • The new Department of Forensic Psychiatry has a total of 126 beds.
  • The project covers 21,700 m².