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Hospital Honored with International Design Awards

July 21, 2015

architecture+, a design and service oriented architecture and planning firm in Troy, New York, is pleased to announce that the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin, Vermont, was honored at the 11th Design & Health World Congress. The awards, for Mental Health Project and Interior Design Project, were accepted by Francis Murdock Pitts, Principal with architecture+, on July 18th in Hong Kong. The awards are sponsored by The International Academy of Design and Health in conjunction with World Health Design Magazine.

The awards program is judged by leading international researchers and practitioners and recognizes professional excellence in the design of healthy built environments. Awards are presented in ten categories across key areas of international healthcare and are open to international organizations and individuals in both the private and public sectors.

The Mental Health Project Award recognizes a facility that reconciles the operational requirements for security and supervision with the need for a civilizing and humane environment that supports therapeutic intervention. Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital was one of three facilities honored with this award.

The Interior Design Project Award recognizes a therapeutic space that enhances the health, well-being, and quality of life of patients, staff, and visitors with a preference toward innovative projects that respect the privacy and dignity of patients and provide an enjoyable experience that reduces stress. Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital received the top honor in this category.

Pitts, who worked on the project along with architecture+ Principal and Interior Designer Sara Wengert, led the design team with the Vermont firm, Black River Design, as Associated Architects. They worked with the State of Vermont’s Department Buildings and General Services and the Department of Mental Health to design this building after Tropical Storm Irene damaged the existing Hospital. The project was constructed on a fast-track schedule by Engelberth Construction. The new 25-bed, $23 million facility draws on the findings of cutting-edge research on the ability of design to promote healing and reduce aggression in psychiatric facilities.

“Research being conducted nationally and internationally provides evidence that violence and aggression can be reduced through the reduction of stress. Allowing patients to have increased privacy is one way to reduce stress, which in turn, promotes healing,” said Pitts.

All bedrooms, recovery spaces, and offices in the Vermont facility have state-of-the-art operable windows. Natural light and ventilation are important to well-being and these windows allow patients to control their own environment which, in turn, reduces stress. Previously, the standard psychiatric hospital window was safe and secure but inoperable. After extensive research and testing, architecture+ collaborated with a British designer and manufacturer to introduce this new window, which has proven itself in Great Britain and Australia, to the United States.

architecture+ has worked extensively with exemplary care providers overseas and toured leading facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, England, Scotland, and Ireland. International recognition for the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital is an incredible honor, according to Pitts, who noted that “the facility bears a strong resemblance to psychiatric care hospitals that have been built throughout Europe, Great Britain, and Scandinavia in that it is scalable for smaller, more intimate treatment and built on a residential rather than institutional scale.”

At the same time, the facility’s interior and exterior draw on elements from the Vermont landscape for inspiration. According to Wengert, “Locally harvested stone and hardwoods are prevalent throughout. The interior design concept creates a soothing and restorative environment with each of the inpatient units themed by an iconic element of nature in Vermont with a coordinating color and season.”

More information on the project can be found here.

The human side of architecture