Designing a 325,000-square-foot integrated behavioral health campus to be both operationally manageable and therapeutic was no small task—but it did require thinking small.

It was breaking that campus down into pieces across inpatient and outpatient as well as psychiatric and addiction treatment programs that made the unbuilt/conceptual design for the King Abdulaziz Medical City Behavioral Health Facility in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so successful.

“The overall plan is very well developed and incredibly logical—a full-service campus for behavioral health that’s carefully zoned and developed,” noted one Healthcare Design Showcase juror.

Trademarks of the design from Perkins+Will that won an Award of Merit in the program include a highly organized approach to the campus with well-established zones for treatment programs. The zones are then divided into communities specific to individual patient populations and their associated levels of acuity and safety/security requirements—all within a light-filled space that answers guiding principles for supporting mind, body, and spirit.

“The users we worked with to design this wanted a state-of-the-art facility with the latest in Western care for behavioral health, recognizing that the environment you provide for patients is definitely part of the treatment,” says Jimmy Smith, design principal at Perkins+Will (Atlanta).

In execution, the facility flows from an administrative area sited at the front of the building, which is then followed by outpatient zones located on the perimeter of an interior courtyard. The courtyard provides outdoor access as well as separation between wings dedicated to psychiatric and addiction patients. The inpatient zone is then on the far side of the building and is the least accessible to the public, with the highest level of security. 

Within those zones, the communities—including daytime activity zones with therapy rooms and gymnasiums as well as a space where patients can move about freely while supervised—support distinct populations, including adolescent, geriatric, adult male, and adult female care. “The attention paid to separation of psychiatric from addiction populations and adolescents from adult males is innovative,” a juror remarked.

Accessible courtyards and other outdoor areas are prolific, too, an approach that addressed a goal to integrate the natural landscape into the building and also served as an organizing structure. “Courtyards are places to be engaged in the outdoors physically as well as visually, but they become ways to separate the communities. They become buffers as well as bridges to the outdoors,” Smith says.

While outpatient therapy and day care are provided, several jurors recognized the facility’s residential component—“The outpatient recovery motel concept is the most interesting part of this project,” a juror said. Described by Smith as similar to a halfway house in the U.S., the psychiatric and addiction motels offer patients an environment between inpatient and outpatient care where they can begin to acclimate to the outside world.

The motel is essentially the last stop in a spiral of care that’s been created through the plan, with treatment starting in high-acuity inpatient wings deep within the building that open to more communal spaces. As patients’ health improves, they’re able to more actively engage in areas outside of their respective neighborhoods and then eventually to experience a sense of community with like patients, prior to returning home.

“Overall, it’s very impressive given the rise of integrated behavioral health models of care. Very few examples exist in the built environment today of structure fitting function as well as what’s articulated in this project,” another juror said.

Jennifer Kovacs Silvis is executive editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at

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