The Woods Bagot-designed Nepean Mental Health Centre (NMHC) in Penrith, New South Wales, Australia, is a new insertion into the existing Nepean Hospital campus and is designed to respond to the increase in demand for mental health services as a result of the growing and aging population.

The center includes 64 mental health beds serving high-dependency, acute, and specialist mental health services for older persons. The unit will include a dedicated inpatient ward and new facilities for the outpatient day program.

The NMHC is an example of how mental health care is shifting toward creating regenerative, healing environments for recovery. The design of the unit provides a restorative health care unit, integrated into the local community and linked to the adjoining health precinct.

The center was modeled on the construction of the human brain. As the brain is encapsulated by the skull, the exterior shell of the building—which addresses the public domain—was designed to be strong and shield-like. By contrast, the interior architecture is soft and interconnected. Internal courtyard façades create protected garden sanctuaries that signify growth and renewal.

The hard steel and glazed exterior relates to the adjacent hospital buildings, and is contrasted with the noninstitutional feel of the interiors and internal courtyards, helping to create a sense of humanity and ownership.

Social settings throughout the indoor and outdoor spaces are designed for interaction and community living. With generous solar access, the therapeutic internal courtyards create visual connectivity and engage users with landscaping that changes with the passage of time, modeling regeneration.

Project Summary

  • Name: Nepean Mental Health Centre
  • Location: Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
  • Owner: Health Infrastructure
  • Area: 7,278 square meters
  • Cost: $44.2 million (part of the $138 million Nepean Hospital redevelopment)
  • Official opening date: March 31, 2014
  • Scope: 64 beds, purpose-designed triage, assessment, and consulting rooms
  • Woods Bagot leadership team: ​Domenic Alvaro, Henry Ahn, Greg Harper, Stephen Taskin
  • Builder: Build Plan /A W. Edwards