Between Ruin and Rebuild: Psychiatric Clinic by De Vylder Vinck Taillieu
The psychiatric clinic is located in the Belgian community of Melle, not far from Ghent. It once formed part of a hospital ensemble featuring stately mansions and idyllic green spaces. Successive renovation and refurbishment work has left little of the charm of the harmonious campus. Demolition work was already underway on the psychiatric clinic when the decision was made to preserve the mansion.
De Vylder Vinck Taillieu have revitalized the clinic according to an experimental idea developed in collaboration with the various groups of users. Working loosely along the lines of the motto “Time does not heal all wounds - nor should it”, fractures and decay have been left exposed and become a central theme of the PC Caritas building.
The dilapidated existing structure has been stripped, gutted to the core and opened up. What remains are rough brick walls patched here and there with concrete blocks. In bad weather, the rain falls through the rafters of the uncovered roof all the way to the gravelled ground floor, where trees have been planted. In the middle of this pavilion-like shell, the architects have integrated a new supporting structure of green supports and joists. In between, they have set individual glass houses that become the only sheltered places of retreat in the clinic. The basement has been repurposed as an auditorium. Open seating areas transition directly into the surrounding green spaces, inviting people to stay a while.
The result is a surreal interspace between exterior and interior, rough and smooth, old and new. Along with its users, the PC Caritas experiment will change over time.