Projects Office builds new space for young mental health patients

The unit will bring together a number of existing services in a purpose built facility at the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People

London-based architects Projects Office has created a radical new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) unit in Edinburgh, which challenges assumptions about “how healthcare environments should look and feel”. 

The new unit comprises outpatient facilities for 5-18 year olds and an in-patient unit for 12-18 year olds. The space has been purposely made colourful, light-filled, playful and practical. Projects Office says they’ve created a “third space” with the unit, saying it is neither “hospital nor home, but a healing space with its own unique identity”. It’s a way to highlight to patients that the unit isn’t home (to avoid underplaying the severity of their illness), but isn’t so clinical that it becomes a scary and overwhelming environment to stay in. 

All images: CAMHS Edinburgh, Projects Office © French + Tye

Working with Ginkgo Projects and consultant artist James Leadbitter, the team was directly inspired by conversations with patients, parents and staff. They held workshops, interviews and informal conversations, and the practical suggestions that came out of the process informed the unit’s layout, look and feel. 

Some features of the space include flexible seating such as a moveable upholstered ottoman which transforms from window seat to seating for two, to help families arrange seating in ways that suit them. There is also space to retreat, with a shared communal area with reading nooks and quiet places, and the whole unit has adopted an abstract coastal theme as the seaside was often mentioned in relation to good mental health during Projects Office’s research.

“It’s been a great privilege to work with an inspired NHS team and charity funders who were keen to embrace unconventional ideas,” says architect and Projects Office co-founder, James Christian.

At a time of stretched NHS funding and increased demand for mental health services, we believe that good design is a powerful and cost-effective healing tool. We also believe that asking patients, staff and parents what they really need and want from healthcare spaces leads to richer, more useful spaces.”

The project is part of an art and therapeutic design programme curated and delivered by Ginkgo Projects for the NHS Lothian. David Pickering-Gummer, general manager REAS, NHS Lothian says: “The facilities within the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People are simply fantastic and the CAMHS facilities are no exception.

“The spaces have been designed with real thought to ensure that they can not only facilitate first-class patient care, but will help to put our patients and their families at ease.”;