OU Mental Health Center

University of Oklahoma
Spring 2018
Norman, OK

Mental health stigma takes the form of two distinct types: social and perceived. Social stigma constitutes the prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals dealing with mental health problems. The psychiatric label these people are given creates an invisible barrier between the “patient” and society. In contrast, self-stigma (perceived) is the interiorizing of discrimination and self-perception by the mental health sufferer. Self-stigma results in feelings of shame and undesirable and dishonest treatment outcomes. Regardless of the type of stigma, the main factor fostering such stigmas remains attitudes within societies which view psychiatry as menacing and something which we must keep isolated.

A new university research campus seems like the appropriate platform for an intervention which would shatter the stigma walls surrounding mental health. The intervention would provide community members with the right tools which will help them play a meaningful role in overcoming mental health stigma.
The mental health ribbon, situated north of the surveys ribbon, will include inpatient facilities, an outpatient wing, an educational element, as well as a public policy and outreach center. Research will be at the core of the ribbon, tying together the different levels of a comprehensive mental health system. Programmatically, the masterplan transitions from more public and community based spaces on the west to more specialized and private spaces on the east.

The site’s orthogonal grid is broken by the geometry of the inpatient wing. This break in geometry resembles the sense of urgency required to break the mental health stigma. the geometric twist can be seen as an outcry by the inpatient wing, one which requires change through a shock. This twist on the site creates a “crack,” a literal and metaphorical one. On site, the crack is a sequence of spaces running in the east/west direction and linking the different parts of the overall system. The crack incorporates recreational and communal spaces which could potentially be where inpatients interact with the community. For example, inpatients who reach a sustainably healthy state and feel ready to leave their facility can inhabit the crack and interact with the community by selling food they grow themselves as part of their green exercise program.

The Mental Health Center was part of a larger masterplan for the University of Oklahoma’s South Research Campus. The masterplan was developed as part of a collective studio effort. 

South Campus as it stands has a fog of misunderstanding looming over it, barring users from discovering the possibilities that could be revealed with a little exploration. The new design of “the Reveal” allows for the potential of this exploration and new experiences to unfurl. Connecting different building uses through green pathways, this revitalization of South Campus encourages users to explore their surroundings slowly, as someone who is lost in the fog would, to better understand their surroundings.    

The overlapping layers of use create opportunities for people to come together and inspiring new possibilities of collaboration. While research is the focus of development, other factors like housing, eating, and recreation are the next level of importance. Having the option for the researchers to have all their needs within a confined area, to where they could live across the street from where they are conducting innovative research in their field, having a greengrocer for healthy eating options nearby so vehicular travel is unnecessary, and recreation options to see nature and have a moment of rest.    

To solidify the connection to the surrounding context, the new plan proposes a transit hub that has the opportunity for a bus hub and a light-rail train stop for people to go towards OKC. The light rail and the bus hub provide users of the site with a range of options on how far away they want or need to travel, as well as providing opportunity for alternative travel solutions to driving to help reduce emissions from vehicles.