The Houston studio of Perkins&Will has reached an important milestone with the topping out of the first public mental health hospital built in Houston in more than three decades. Upon completion, the UTHealth Behavioral Sciences Center will house a coordinated system of clinical units, support services, and education and research spaces. The academic psychiatric hospital, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), will be the largest facility of its kind in the U.S. and is set to stand on the forefront of training the next generation of physicians and specialists to lead behavioral and mental healthcare.
The UTHealth Behavioral Sciences Center is located near the Texas Medical Center and is comprised of two separate buildings, spanned by a glazed bridge, and accentuated by courtyards and outdoor spaces.
“The UTHealth Behavioral Sciences Center is a transformative project that will not only provide the highest level of behavioral and mental healthcare but also work to combat stigmas on what a psychiatric hospital looks like,” said Diana Davis, principal and managing director of the Houston studio of Perkins and Will. “Knowing that behavioral and mental health is a critical aspect of one’s holistic well-being, our team was thoughtful in approaching each design decision through research and with the interest of promoting healing.”
Perkins&Will is providing architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture services for the project. Inspired by the calming effects and healing benefits of natural light and nature, the design features scenic views and access to landscaped courtyards. Designers also utilized abuse-resistant and noise-reducing materials in conjunction with angular geometry to diminish noise and thereby reduce stress on patients and staff.
The exterior design conveys the integrity of a state-of-the-art medical institution blended with the atmosphere of a safe, spacious, and healing environment. Buffered by a tree-filled exterior courtyard, the entrance is located beneath a long, shaded overhang to visually cue the transition from the outside to the inside.
Inside each unit, a daylit central living space is surrounded by patient bedrooms. A warm material palette sets the tone of a soothing and welcoming space.
To help facilitate patient preparation from a hospital setting back to the larger world, the campus includes a therapy mall, offering opportunities for patients to practice skills needed for daily interactions. The therapy mall has the functionality to be utilized in multiple ways. It can serve as a salon or boutique, fitness center or space for hosting movie nights. Music therapy and group therapy sessions can also occur in this space.
The therapy mall and communal dining area are enhanced by floor-to-ceiling windows, bringing in an abundance of light while offering tranquil views of the courtyard greenspace. The design of the courtyard incorporates areas for outdoor group therapy and recreation opportunities for patients.
Given the purpose of the facility, designers took care to create spaces that were supportive of both patient and staff experiences. Specifically designed for staff, and complete with its own entrance, the facility’s Support Pavilion holds an education center as well as break rooms, on-call sleep rooms, and a mother’s room. Recognizing that the purpose for these units may fluctuate over time, designers factored this into their planning, allowing for flexibility and evolution of use.
The 220,000 square-foot facility includes 264 new inpatient beds and will provide access to mental healthcare, substance use intervention and treatment, and medical care via integrated treatment programs, caring for patients and guiding them toward a healthy transition back into their community.
Houston-based Vaughn Construction is serving as the project’s contractor. Construction began in June 2019. The hospital is expected to open in late 2021.
Renderings and photos of topping out can be found here.