Viecure Hospital Venlo, the experience of entering a hospital
Hospital stays tend to be perceived as unpleasant. With the exception of welcoming a new child into the world, a health problem is the most common reason for a trip to the hospital. Once there, stress seems inevitable, and once encountered, it can seriously obstruct the healing process.
Wouldn’t it be nice if hospitals were comfortable and welcoming? If anxiety made way for acquiescence? If patients felt cared for and at ease? If the hospital became synonymous with a safe haven? If the hospital was perceived as on level with a health resort?
With this in mind, Holland Hospital Architects got to work at the VieCurie Hospital in Venlo. The psychiatry unit is located directly across from the hospital’s main entrance. For the vulnerable group of people who make use of these services, it is extremely important that hospitals are viewed as approachable, rather than depressing. In our opinion, Holland Hospital Architects hit the mark, as this flattering article from the 2007 Architectural Yearbook clearly demonstrates:
…The VieCurie Hospital in Venlo proves just how powerful outstanding architecture can be. The building transcends the hegemony of visual culture and engages all the senses. When you first enter the reception hall you are met with the crisp melody of shoes snapping against the glass mosaic floor. You smell the wood, hear the gentle babble of water, see the fossilised stone floor tiles and, as your eyes are drawn up towards the exaggerated ceiling, you experience the entire room as a vibrant greenhouse in a botanical garden. This oasis of tranquillity serves as the metaphorical harbinger for what patients can expect: mental and emotional balance. The patients live in secure units grouped around a patio that cannot be seen from the outside and, for reasons of privacy, cannot be accessed by unauthorised visitors. These units, which offer outpatient care and short-term treatment options, are warm and inviting and can easily be expanded or remodelled. The carefully selected carpets that line the halls create a warm and homey feeling. Here, footsteps are soft and muted. Here, visitors are naturally inclined to drop their voices and slow their movements. Here, the slipper-clad residents have a clear advantage. Our eyes and ears respond to the architectural elements and our behaviour follows suit; just as the architects had predicted and intended. This is multi-sensory design at its best. The most striking element on the building’s façade is the steel frame encircling seashell-studded brickwork that reflects the balance between nature and culture that the reception hall so perfectly encapsulates. This building is balanced, harmonious, controlled.
Physical and psychological disorders are an everyday risk: no one is immune to the potential threat of hospitalisation or institutionalisation. Yet psychological symptoms are far more unnerving than their physical counterparts. The new psychiatry unit at VieCurie Hospital forces the general hospital-goer to confront this inner anguish head-on. The building’s clever design, however, strips away the dread and trepidation associated with the inevitable. The architectural techniques applied here ingenious in their simplicity!