Close to Home

Cameron Clarke
Education degree
School of Architecture
Study programme
Urbanism & Societal Change


Awarded the 2019 KADK United Nations Scholarship

Jury Citation:

" 'Close to Home' engages in one of the key challenges of today's rapidly urbanising world - mental health. Often stigmatised and misinterpreted, mental healthcare facilities in China are typically large, centralised and inhumane institutions located far from the everyday spaces of their users. 


Based on a process of interdisciplinary research and design speculation, this project posits a local alternative in the urban setting of Beijing, where mental health care is of immense urgency. Each intervention is crafted and represented with precision through a range of architectural media, including drawings, models, animations and a design manual.


In strengthening existing communities and neighbourhood structures, the project exemplifies how architecture could plan an essential role in the future mental well-being of our urban lives." 

Today, nearly 180 million Chinese citizens suffer from a mental health illness.
The Lancet
Phillips M.R. (2009)

A Societal Crisis.

Of these 180 million people living with a mental illness, 160 Million have not had any psychological treatment or care. 

This lack of treatment is a crisis in-waiting, and the economic and social consequences are yet to be fully comprehended.

Research Question

Can answers to China's urban mental health crisis be found close to home?

In this project I argue that solutions may be found within existing community and neighbourhood structures.

This is achieved by proposing a preventative & rehabilitational focused psychiatric care model based upon a urban acupuncture of care facilities across the city fabric, rather than the current model of reactive centralised institutions.

Architectural spaces and interventions are networked together by a digital layer of communication technology, bringing mental healthcare physically, and virtually, closer to each of the city’s citizens, and in doing so increasing communal and neighbourly interaction and reducing stigma and fear of illness, which is integral for good mental health.

Intersecting Networks

Project Site - Xicheng, Beijing

Speculative investigations for this imagined prototype project are focused at the edge of the central Beijing’s oldest district: Xicheng. 

This site has been selected for investigation as it crosses the 2nd ring-road boundary which demarks the typological change from traditional hutong neighbourhoods, danwei work unit housing to the ultra high density gated community housing schemes which has begun to dominate the Beijing skyline.

Xicheng contains the broadest spectrum of urban typologies in the city and is home to central Beijing’s last remaining psychiatric hospital.

The population of the district is 1.3 Million, over twice that of Copenhagen

Xicheng is further subdivided into 15 neighbourhoods, these proposals will focus on the Desheng Subdistrict.

Desheng is a 4.14 km2 neighbourhood, with a residential population of 116,199 and an additional transient population of 25,500.


Site Context

Project Scale - A Prototype Design Manual

While the scale of the crisis spans the whole country, this project proposes a series of interventions which form the basis of a Design Manual, speculating on a possible alternative trajectory for Chinese urban mental healthcare.

The project focuses on a test site for these proposals, offering programs which are largely absent from the current mental healthcare system. These interventions will support community awareness, early diagnosis and also recovery support and community reintegration for patients.


Design Guide

Urban Acupuncture 

Architectural interventions, which are each described in detail in the design guide, are intended to be strategically placed across the city fabric relating to specific site opportunities and programmatical needs.

Community Kitchen Garden - Planometric
Community Kitchen Garden - Visualisation
Street-side Talking Space - Planometric
Street-side Talking Space - Visualisation
Scroll Drawing
Rooftop and Courtyard interventions on 1980s Danwei Building
Rooftop Kitchen Garden - Planometric
Rooftop Kitchen Garden - Visualisation
Silent Meditation Space - Planometric
Silent Meditation Space - Visualisation
Roof Garden on 1.100 Megatower model

An Urban Mental Wellness Clinic

Patient Journey through the clinic

The main node in the network of interventions, the urban mental-wellness clinic, focuses on offering the space for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation within the densely populated hutong community.


1:100 Massing Model
Entrance from the Hutong Street
Streetside Respite Space
Psychiatrist Consultation Room
Virtual Reality Classroom
Communal Kitchen
Dining Room
View from Street
Ground Floor
1:20 Construction Detail Model
Patient Waiting Room
Theraputic Helpline
Group Meeting and Activity Space
Consultation Room
Planometric - First Floor
Planometric - Roof Plan
1:20 Detailed Construction Model
Detailed Section

Project Program

Project Program

Research Essay

The Great Burden of China

Research Essay

Close to Home, a prototype

While this project could never directly tackle the enormity of the mental health crisis in china, in terms of sheer scale, or the complexity of layered  multidisciplinary expertise and resources required, I believe that through human scale interventions and additions within existing neighbourhoods and communities lessons can be learned from a prototype project such as this. Bringing China towards building an inclusive mental healthcare strategy that is innovative, compassionate and close to home. 


For further information please contact

In 2017-2019, KADK is working with the UN sustainable development goals
This is reflected in our research, teaching and the students’ projects. This project relates to the following UN goal(-s):
Good health and well-being (3)
Industry, innovation and infrastructure (9)
Reduced inequalities (10)
Sustainable cities and communities (11)
Peace, justice and strong institutions (16)

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