Two new mental health facilities in Ōtautahi Christchurch won the title of Project of the Year - New Build International at the Design in Mental Health Awards ceremony in the United Kingdom on Wednesday 5 June (NZ time).

The buildings, which opened in Hillmorton in 2023, were designed by Klein Architects, on behalf of Health New Zealand │ Te Whatu Ora.

One houses a unit for adults with high and complex mental health needs, and the other provides inpatient and specialist outpatient mental health services for mothers and babies, children and adolescents, and people with eating disorders.

The awards’ judges’ comments were as follows: "A fantastic overall design. Proper incorporation of nature and consideration for the benefits of biophilia but importantly for the staff as well as the patients.”

‘Biophilic design supports the connection to the natural environment.

The design, colours and finishes were inspired by the natural environment, and by guidance provided by Mana Whenua Ki Waitaha, a representative collective of the seven Ngāi Tahu rūnanga.

“The buildings help create an environment that supports oranga hinegaro – mental wellbeing – by creating homely spaces that welcome whānau, and support other aspects of contemporary models of care,” says Health NZ Clinical Lead Mental Health Facilities Rebecca Webster.

At the same time, the buildings’ design lets in plenty of natural light, allowing strong connections with the outdoors.

“For instance, the generous courtyards, activity spaces, outdoor basketball court and playground help give a feeling of calm and familiarity,” says Rebecca Webster.

Sam Paterson, Senior Associate at Klein Architects and the Co-Project Lead, describes having seen the facilities working as intended.

"It was truly rewarding to visit the facility after it opened and to see tangata whaiora enjoying cooking and sharing a meal with whānau. This was a special moment to witness and is an example of the social and therapeutic benefits achieved by the design."

Rob Ojala, Regional Head of Infrastructure for Te Waipounamu at Health NZ, says the work done on the project will benefit more than just the two buildings at Hillmorton.

“This is the result of a great collaboration between the clinical teams, tangata whaiora, mana whenua, designers and the project team to deliver an incredible facility, which will inform the design of other mental health builds around the country,” he says.

More detail on the awards on the Design in Mental Health website