Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital – Worcester, MA
Project category: New construction (completed August 2012)
Chief administrator: Marcia Fowler, Commissioner; Anthony Riccitelli, Chief Operating Officer
Firms: Ellenzweig, (617) 491-5575; architecture+, (518) 272-4481
Design team: Associated Architect (Ellenzweig); Associated Architect (architecture+); MEP Engineer (Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers, Inc.); Landscape Architect (Horiuchi Solien, Inc.); Interior Finishes (Mohar Design, LLC); Furniture and Equipment (architecture+)
Photography: ©2012 Ellenzweig
Total building area (sq. ft.): 430,000
Construction cost/sq. ft.: $602
Total construction cost (excluding land): $258,666,331
This 320-bed continuing care public psychiatric hospital melds state-of-the-art therapeutic programs and environment such that the building itself is an integral part of a patient’s treatment and recovery. Familiar elements (house, neighborhood, and downtown) are arranged to reflect the range of environments in which people live. The bedrooms, the most basic element, are clustered in houses that share adjacent active and quiet living rooms. These provide the smallest social unit of eight to ten residents in a twenty-six bed inpatient unit.
Neighborhoods are arranged as the patients’ domain. The downtown includes activity centers shared by the entire hospital that are located along interior streets and squares, and surrounds the village green – a secure outdoor space for activities and community events. These activity centers include a gymnasium, retail store, café, library, and exercise and movement rooms to name several. The closer one gets to the middle of the downtown, the more activity there is; quieter spaces are located further away from the center (chapel, library, art rooms).
The Hospital’s quiet, private side is expressed differently from its active downtown. The village green façade is more uniform in its use of glass, with variation to break down the scale and avoid monolithic repetition and recall the variety and commonalities of facades surrounding a New England village green.
Each element (house, neighborhood, and downtown) contributes to patient’s treatment and recovery. The house provides a key place of privacy within a broader range of graduated social and therapeutic interactions. The size capitalizes on the patients’ innate abilities to manage relationships within a smaller community.
The neighborhood provides active programming space directly outside of the houses where patients can access programs. It also creates an intermediary zone between the quiet house and the active downtown, which can be overwhelming if the patient is not ready for such a high degree of external stimulation.
The downtown provides an active space containing resources that are shared by the entire hospital. This provides patients with a sense of living and healing within a broader community while encouraging them to look forward to reconnecting and reintegrating with their communities, families, and friends. The program as a whole encourages patients to take an active role in their treatment.
The facility encompasses the most current thinking about care for individuals with serious mental illness. The building is flexible; it is patient centered and staff enabling; it focuses on the patient’s goal of recovery; it does the work of a hospital without feeling like a hospital. This hospital is the most advanced example of the house/neighborhood/downtown model that has characterized new long-term stay psychiatric hospitals over the past twenty years in that it simultaneously has small free-standing sub-cluster residences, a robust neighborhood shared by three adjoining units, and a clear relationship between neighborhood and downtown and beyond that to an enclosed village green and the community.
The building layout affords maximum view of the surroundings. The disturbed area surrounding the new facility was planted with indigenous meadow grasses, shrubs, and trees. Rainwater is being harvested for irrigation of the secure courtyards. The project is built on the footprint of the historic Worcester State Hospital, the first publicly funded psychiatric hospital built in 1833. The disturbed site area is virtually identical with the already developed site area. The building has received LEED Gold certification.