Completion Date: September 2015


The New Psychiatric Hospital in Slagelse, Slagelse, Denmark
Karlsson arkitekter / VLA

The new psychiatric hospital in Slagelse is the largest and most ambitious psychiatry construction in Denmark in more than 100 years with the total area of 44,000 m2 and an investment of more than 160 mil euro. The building consists of general psychiatric, forensic and high security wards, ambulatory, emergency reception, training facilities, swimming pool and a centre for research and education. The overall capacity includes 194 hospitalised patients and 200-300 daily consultations in the ambulatory.

The project stands in the frontline of redefining the way people are treated and working with psychiatry. That has been achieved through close dialog and collaboration with the patients, staff, artists and experts throughout the project development process. The bearing ideas of the project include the principles of recovery and healing architecture, transparency and proximity between people and functions, universality and flexibility from the single units to the whole sections and hierarchy of space and stimuli.

From the outside, the building looks uncomplicated with warm yellow handmade bricks used on the facade. The surrounding gently mountainous landscape with wild grass and groups of oak trees form a welcoming and supporting atmosphere for everyone arriving or leaving the building. 

Inside, the building is organised and designed in an informal and open way, around eventful unity of spaces and inner courtyard gardens. The separate sections of the hospital are assembled through common facilities for treatments, activities, training, cooking and outdoor spaces, supporting the innovative organization of the future psychiatrics. The synergy and knowledge sharing between the staff is accommodated through open activity based work spaces designed for the specialists working across treatment, research and education.

Transparency between people and functions has been the key in developing the overall layout and design. That includes consistent use of glass walls between relevant functions – e. g. workspaces, meeting rooms and activity facilities, giving the building a personal and lively atmosphere. Using glass in designing the working areas for the staff in each ward gives the possibility of overviewing the ward and the common areas shared between 2 – 3 wards. This underlines the notion of proximity and allows easy access to staff, but also supports the strategy of dynamic security. 

For majority of the psychiatric patients, a substantial part of the treatment consists of maintaining social competences and basic skills. Sports and other physical activities are included in the therapy to increase their engagement and activity levels, helping them to adjust better. Patients can access facilities, such as two sports halls, swimming pool and outdoor training areas. Furthermore, more than 40 courtyards and gardens that differ in size and character give a variety of options for outdoor activities for both patients and staff. The inventory and planting supports the notion of changing seasons and supplements with stimulating observations of weather, birds etc.

Focusing on recovery and healing architecture, one of the projects’ bearing ideas includes optimising the daylight and working with ground-breaking LED-lighting. The project is complemented by a circadian rhythm lighting design, which is based on a dynamic LED technology, supporting the work with patients through both day and night. The lights vary in colour, intensity and composition, depending on the time of the day. A series of studies have proven that this supports the treatment of the patients and limits the stress levels of the staff working during night shifts. 

In collaboration with Danish artist Malene Landgreen, an overall concept and colour scheme for the surfaces, inventory and masking of the glass walls has been developed. Giving each area and function their specific identity and atmosphere to support the healing process, it also acts as an easily understandable wayfinding. Furthermore, poetic texts are used in the masking of the glass walls throughout the building, varying in their transparency according to the need. The texts are generated in a dynamic collaboration the Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen, the staff and the patient groups.

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