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Mount Carmel Reimagined: Maltese Architecture Student Shows What Mental Health Hospital Could Look Like

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A keen architecture student took matters into her own hands and designed the mental health hospital Mount Carmel’s interior as it could be, keeping the patients’ well-being in mind.

Kirsty Borg, 21, stumbled upon the article in which Belle de Jong (the writer of this article) detailed her experience in Malta’s psychiatric hospital Mount Carmel. “This reading confirmed the customary stigma that has always surrounded these psychiatric facilities,” Borg said.

Keeping in mind the relation between an individual’s behaviour and mental well-being to their environment, Borg knows that “the behaviour, state of mind and cognitive processes of the individual are highly influenced by their environment.”

The article led her to imagine what appropriate spaces in a psychiatric hospital could look like.

“The handful of photos of the facility found online evidently depicted the inappropriate design of these spaces, which surely would inflict hesitation to any individual seeking help.”

Putting together the very few photos of the hospital that can be found on the internet, she realised the ‘unfortunate state’ of the design, “a design which supposedly needs to better the patient and their experience in the institute.”

Based off those images, she designed spaces that offer mental health patients the environment they need for their recovery.

The below visual shows the current and the potential design of a multiple-bed ward in the hospital.

Here’s an example of a reimagined common area, including equipment for artistic therapy, a library and a shared table for socialisation:

She also designed a private room for individuals that need their privacy and alone-time, “creating a space with character that respects the territorial need of privacy, which stimulates interactions and ensures safety.”

“These are all spaces which continuously play a role in the bettering of the individual in this facility. They may hopefully present themselves as appropriate places of healing and uplifting,” Borg said.

She says the interior design of the institution should not only meet the patients’ needs for protection, privacy and socialisation, but should also be configured holistically to the level of diagnosis of the patient and the goals of the treatment.

That’s why her design includes art spaces, a library, and lots of greenery.

“Greenery, natural and artificial light and gradations of privacy create a healing indoors environment. The colour green also acts as a metaphorical replacement for real greenery, whilst providing the calming effect this muted green colour is known for.”

And the use of natural materials like wood and warmer light temperatures create a residential feel, moving further away from the cold visual stimuli linked to hospitals and prisons.

Wood, being a natural material, gives off a more soothing effect, possibly emulating the wood one might see in a place filled with greenery,” Borg said.

Mount Carmel Hospital has recently opened a new, modern ward for female patients suffering with drug abuse, which takes the safety and well-being of patients into account.

The new mental health hospital that is underway and set to be ready in 2025 will hopefully find inspiration in and integrate some of these practices.

Do you think Malta’s new psychiatric hospital should incorporate these suggestions?

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Belle dives deep into seas and stories. She’s passionate about mental health, environmental sustainability and social justice. When she’s not out and about with her dog, she’s more than happy to hear from you.

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