UTRECHT (NL) - The commission to design a new, 10,000 m2 building for Stichting Altrecht, a psychiatric facility, presented VMX Architects with a tricky problem. The Stichting's premises occupy a city block in Utrecht's historical centre and the existing buildings are not only listed, but on a much smaller scale than what was now being proposed. The architects resolved the difference in scale by choosing a cruciform plan and placing it in the centre of the existing quadrangle so that it is perceived as four different spaces rather than a monolithic block.
To underline the different functions of these four external spaces, VMX devised four different facade treatments. The 'civic courtyard' has a glass and concrete facade, the 'city garden' facade consists of fibre cement panels and aluminium window frames and the 'private garden' has a green, ivy-covered facade. But most striking of all is 'urban blockland' thanks to the bright yellow polyester panels used across the residential floors. Although the bedrooms are individually expressed in a rhythmic succession of stylish bay windows, the yellow polyester panelling unites them with the rest of the facade.
The new building is horizontally organized. As in a hotel, the more public functions (reception, lobby, restaurant) are located on the ground floor, while the first and second floors contain treatment, consultation and group therapy rooms. The top four floors are reserved for patient accommodation and each patient unit has access to its own private roof terrace. (Hannah Schubert)