Fragmented Experiences

Project for a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Clinic in Évora

There has always been a marginalization towards the mentally ill. Such that it has found its way into architecture. The buildings destined to receive people with mental issues, have had a design more similar to that of a prison than a housing unit, almost ignoring the human part of the subject.

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In Portugal, the better mental health services are located in the areas of Lisbon and Porto. Nonetheless, it is in the interior of the country where the biggest percentage of people with mental health issues is located. In Évora, these people are followed by the Psychiatry Service of the Hospital do Espírito Santo, which has a very limited support, and the building is outdated. When the patients can't receive treatment, are relocated to the big cities, far away from their families or, instead, sent to regular elderly homes, which are not prepared to treat people with specific mental issues.

In order to help the deficiency in the mental health services in the Évora district, a new Psychiatric Rehabilitaion Clinic is idealized. Located on the south, outside the inner city walls, on an area propitious for healthy urban growth, this Clinic will provide a Public Clinic/Infirmary, Occupational Therapy and a Long-term Care Unit, and will help the Hospitals already present. Near the site, there are many urban voids and complications present. These were resolved by a simple intervention, bringing new uses and housing as well as strengthening the connection between the railway station and the inner city by improving the circulation. The Long-term Care Unit, was designed like a traditional Alentejo housing block. Each one of the housing units contains the main concepts that a house must have: Fire, Water and Alcove. In order to strengthen the connection to the local architecture, an Atrium was added, turning them into real patio-houses. These units bring the vernacular patio-houses of yore into contemporaneity: thick rammed-earth walls, gave way to thinner, more efficient, mechanized rammed-earth walls; the ceiling made with wooden beams was substituted by large CLT planks. A Capotto system covers the walls and the ceiling, which provides better insulation, throughout the year. Completing the exterior, we have whitewashed walls with waist-high limestone footers; protuding from the white roof, small chimneys which give light to the Water area, grow. Contrasting the white homogenous exterior, the rammed-earth walls are tinted, giving personality and difference to the inside. These units are then disposed along green and portuguese cobblestone covered streets, dotted with olive and orange trees. These street alignments embody the true neighbourhood experience of Alentejo.