National Forensic Mental Health Service

Forensic mental healthcare facilities must balance the needs of a therapeutic care environment within a secure setting. Ireland’s national forensic mental hospital was the first such facility in the world when it opened in 1850, but the Victorian building is no longer suitable for the delivery of 21st century models of mental healthcare. STW in association with Medical Architecture were commissioned to design a new National Forensic Mental Hospital on a beautiful landscaped site 20 km north of Dublin city, with the challenge to achieve a design which maximises light, space and aesthetic quality while complying with onerous security requirements. 


Co. Dublin, Ireland




The campus has been designed to reflect the model of care to be delivered. In this regard, the single storey build provides a more flexible layout in which to provide a safe, secure and healing environment.

Accessed through a spacious and welcoming reception block, the hospital is laid out as a series of pavilion buildings around a pedestrianised ‘village green,’ achieving intuitive wayfinding through a site-wide narrative of colour, art and landscaping.

A ‘village centre’ provides shared recreational and therapeutic facilities including a horticultural area, while a series of courtyards and secure perimeter gardens allow patients direct access to nature from each ward.

130 single patient bedrooms are laid out in small wards around shared indoor and outdoor spaces in which collective activities and therapies take place.

Within this unifying design concept, individual buildings respond to the specific clinical requirements of distinct patient cohorts, including pre-discharge unit, female unit, mental health intellectual disabilities unit, and medium and high secure units.

A perimeter service road facilitates direct, secure vehicular access to each building, providing for patient admissions, emergency vehicles and services and deliveries.

The new facility will once again position Ireland’s forensic mental health services as world leaders in best clinical practice in a facility which maximises the therapeutic value of landscape and design within the constraints of a secure setting.