At this month’s 2018 AIA Seattle Medical Design Forum, ZGF Architects’ Kari Thorsen, Tammy Felker, and Marty Brennan shared the inspiration behind the design of Swedish Medical Center-Ballard’s 22-bed Medical Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).
Central to ZGF’s approach was balancing safety requirements with therapeutic elements to break the stigma of a traditional BHU while instilling patients with a sense of control and normalcy.
The BHU’s spaces are composed of private zones for bedrooms, social activity spaces, intermediate zones for group and individual counseling, and staff areas. As patients move through the inpatient environment they encounter lighting, patterns, and materiality evoking elements in nature.
In addition to these soothing biophilic elements, tunable circadian lighting in common areas helps synchronize patients’ natural sleep-wake rhythms, marking the passage of time and providing a sense of calm as the day winds down.
The collection of furniture balances the need for patient and staff safety with designs that feel less institutional and more home-like, key elements in this transformative space for healing.
An exercise room featuring a stationary bicycle, yoga mat, and exercise ball is helpful in combatting depression and foundational to overall health and wellness. In the BHU’s quiet meditative spaces, patients can set the color of the lighting, a personal choice that can be both calming and impart a sense of safety.
These quiet spaces were also designed to help patients deescalate, meditate, and practice breathing exercises — part of the skills patients can develop in the inpatient environment to manage symptoms after they’ve been discharged.