Healing Architecture and Psychiatric Practice: (Re)ordering Work and Space in an In‐patient Ward in Denmark

Thorben P. Simonsen*, Cameron Duff

*Corresponding author for this work

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Healing architecture is a defining feature of contemporary hospital design in many parts of the world, with psychiatric in‐patient facilities in Denmark at the forefront of this innovation. The approach rests on the contention that designed clinical spaces and the particular dispositions they express may promote patient recovery. Although the idea that health may be spatially mediated is well‐established, the means of this mediation are far from settled. This article contributes to this debate by analysing medical encounters in the context of a new purpose‐built psychiatric hospital opened in Slagelse, Denmark in late 2015 as an example of healing architecture for the region. Grounded in qualitative research conducted in two wards between 2016 and 2017, we explore the key material and social effects of the hospital's healing architecture, and the spaces and practices it enacts. Following the work of Michael Lynch, we consider both the designed ‘spatial order’ of the in‐patient wards and the ‘spatial orderings’ unfolding therein with a particular interest in how order is accomplished in psychiatric work. With much of the existing discussion of healing architectures focusing on their impacts on patient wellbeing, we consider how healing architectures may also be transforming psychiatric work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)379-392
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 28. October 2019


  • Healing architecture
  • Spatial ordering
  • Psychiatric work
  • Mental health
  • Medical encounters
  • Denmark

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