The Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) Youth Mental Health Building situated in the University of Sydney’s medical faculty, is not only a world class award winning design piece, it is a world class treatment centre dealing with mental health and clinical brain issues.
The project is what is known as architecture with a conscience.
It is no longer ground-breaking to design simply with aesthetics in mind. Given the current global climate, an attractive building is simply passé if it doesn’t offer something more.
That something more is social sustainability. This is the process whereby buildings are constructed and designed with the well-being of those using them in mind. It incorporates the movements and comfort of inhabitants into the environment to achieve the desired emotional response. In the case of BRMI this is what BVN, the world class, award winning architecture firm that designed the building, have labelled as “building-as-cure”.
The design brief for the building was incredibly complex, as described by AA. It was crucial for the building to be able to play host to two polar purposes. BVN architecture designer James Grose has labelled the two major occupants of the building as “the true authors of the building”.
The first section of consideration was the two bottom levels, the original building which would be occupied by Dr. Ian Hickie, professor of psychiatry. The main focus in terms of this area was to completely move away from traditional psychiatric design. From the very archaic institutional design lay out of turn of the century psychiatric wards, to the enclosed utopias of the Freudian genre. Instead and emphasis on light, warmth, space and community is apparent, with a centre focus at the heart of the building is a kitchen.
In his interview with AA, Mr. Hickie said that the feeling of freedom yet connectivity is developed through the open connecting interior bridges, which was the key aspect of the design for him.
“The worst thing in the world is a lift, they kill communication. Communication happens in stairwells,” Mr. Hickie said.
Literally place on top of this section of the original building is the laboratory, home to Professor Bennet and his study of neurophysiology. Although vastly more clinical are the two storeys of laboratories, surrounded by glass on all sides of the section. Instead of creating again, that traditional institutional feel, the design enables warmth, light and a feeling of transparency.
The final emphasis is on functionality and science. There is a simplicity to the fit out and structure that offers an insight into the workings of the buildings inhabitants.
With the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Sulman Award under their belts, the building and its architect is certainly making a name for its self on a national front.
Internationally, the building has been included on the list of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Award winners, which will be announced later this year.
The building is a perfect example of what it means to truly make a mark in the world of architecture and design, which is proving to be a conscience.