The home of architecture and design in Asia-Pacific

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Harmony and healing in mental health design with Hassell

Caring for our mental health is paramount these days and architecture and design can lead the way as Hassell shows in its latest project in Queensland.

Harmony and healing in mental health design with Hassell

One of the most important aspects of wellbeing these days is our mental health and so it is heartening to see that architecture and design is playing such an important part in supporting better health outcomes. With a new facility designed by Hassell in Queensland, there is not only state-of-the-art amenity but a beautifully devised design to help enhance the healing process. 

Lead on the project, Stephen Watson, Principal, Hassell and his team have forever changed the reality, and therefore the perception, of a mental health facility with their latest project, the Ipswich Hospital Mental Health Unit. It’s light and bright, the form is sensitive, transparent wherever appropriate, and the function is fit for not only today, but also for tomorrow. Banish any visions of a sad interior aesthetic, this project sets the standard for mental health care that leads the rest.

Designed for West Moreton Health, Ipswich Hospital Mental Health Unit provides 64 beds over three levels with multiple courtyards, gardens and social areas for patients and visitors. Of course, there are areas that are more private than others; however, Watson and his team have created a project that values and aids the ideas of best practice and recovery and recuperation for patients. 

Hassell designs Ipswich Hospital Mental Health Unit

The project began in 2019 and the process included more than 90 stakeholder group consultations. From the many workshops and discussions, a framework for the design was created and finally, in 2023, the facility was completed.

The footprint of the building is 3000 square metres and it is positioned on a steep sloping site. Across three levels there are four pods each with 14 beds plus an eight-bed high dependency unit. Initially the slope presented challenges, however incorporating the gradient into the design has resulted in a masterful use of the site and a creative outcome.

At lower ground level is a drop off area or porte-cochere and, on the other side, a public arrival entrance. The three levels above envelope the space and also provide the all-important outside spaces that contribute to patient wellbeing and there is a multitude of venue choice in which to interact with the outdoors and nature.

Related: Hassell on health precincts

Hassell designs Ipswich Hospital Mental Health Unit

The interior features light wells where trees grow inside up to the sky and all rooms have been situated around the perimeter of the building so that there are ample views through windows and greater connection to the landscape. Each room has a bay window with daybed and lounge, seat and table that can be moved and re-configured as a patient requires.

Watson explains, “The driver was trying to make it feel familiar and honest, and we used throughout the process a feeling of orderliness and familiarity, comfort and choice. So, within the social spaces and the decks and the bedroom, there are always choices about how to occupy the space – you may want to sit with a group or have some more quiet reflection time. There are different settings that allow these different things to happen.”

The colour palette is warm and reflects the surrounding countryside with tans and honey beige, the green of eucalypts and grasses and misty blues of the local river. Anodised dark bronze accents are employed in window frames and selectively used through extents of cladding. Materiality is natural, utilising timber that adds texture and warmth to the ambience of the interior.

The exterior facade is anodised aluminium that reflects the light and provides a lustre that changes throughout the day and season. Sun shading elements break the mass of the exterior and also provide privacy for patients.

Integral to the design was the inclusion of art within the building. Working with Queensland Health and the Arts In Health Program, local artists were approached and commissioned to create special pieces for both inside and out. Large sculptures, paintings and a special design for a decal used throughout the interior, all make Ipswich Hospital Mental Health Unit a more relaxing and interesting place to be.

Staff are also a priority in the design and there is a staff hub on the upper level with meeting and training rooms, a tearoom and a landscaped deck. There is ample natural light within and security is also incorporated. An important aspect of the design was to create a place for staff that would allow people to feel more at home, retain members and attract others.

Ipswich Hospital Mental Health Unit has raised the bar on design for better health. It has been conceived holistically, taking into account the many viewpoints, needs and requirements of patients and families, staff and neighbours.

As Watson explains, “It is a holistic design approach: the architecture, the interiors and the landscape really come together and the project becomes more than the sum of its parts. Everywhere you walk through the unit and everywhere you look, you can see that coming together and connecting from inside out and it’s all really quite harmonious in creating a safe place that nurtures healing.”

With this project Hassell has shown that better health means best practice architecture and design and the patients and staff of Ipswich Hospital Mental Health Unit are definitely the winners, as are we all.


Courtesy of Hassell

More from Hassell on healthcare: How inclusive design improves wellbeing

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed