In the new drug consumption center, users can take their drugs in safe surroundings under the supervision of healthcare personnel. The drug consumption center is situated in a 1000m2 former slaughter house in the fashionable Meatpacking District. The building can service 24 drug users in various separate rooms, including injection rooms, smoking places, plus flexible multi-use spaces.
Drug Consumption Center
A safer environment for drug addicts in the largest drug consumption center in The North
The new drug consumption center was designed to improve the condition of drug users in Copenhagen – whilst also reducing the problems and discomfort linked to drug abuse in the local community. Drug users are of the most vulnerable social groups; the new drug consumption center is creating a safer and more worthy life for drug users who now have the possibility of bringing their drugs in to the center. Here they can take them in clean, safe and secure surroundings. At the center users are assisted by health care personnel ready to help and give first aid in dangerous situations e.g. when there is an overdose risk. Drug users can also get counselling and guidance for other health related issues, participate in different activities and establish a relationship with social workers or other authorities.
”We are very happy with this project - the new center is social architecture very much in line with the overall purpose of PLH which is improving the quality of life through design and architecture” says Lars Toksvig who is the responsible partner on the project.
”We are very happy with this project - the new center is social architecture very much in line with the overall purpose of PLH which is improving the quality of life through design and architecture”
- Lars Toksvig
Architecture that Creates Stability and Security The Drug Consumption Center is designed to be welcoming, creating a sense of calm, whilst also fulfilling the practical purpose of having rooms and surfaces that accommodate intensive use. Spatial sequences and passageways are very open and informal, allowing for visual contact between building users whilst also avoiding conflict situations. The renovation strategy of the former slaughter house has focused on respecting the unique architectural features of the buildings in the Meatpacking District.
PLH have incorporated angles into the design of the long building – a technique that enables personnel to see each other at all times. Furthermore, transparent glass walls, and doors with portholes, have been used throughout the building’s design – making it possible for personnel to see if somebody falls ill, or if any conflict occurs. The result is an open and transparent environment for building users.
Nudging in Flow and Psychology of Colors
A key part of the brief was to design a safe and secure environment, both for drug users and for personnel. The architecture had to be able to respond to the state of mind of various drug users, during various stages of drug intake. For example, when the users enter the building - pre-consumption - the atmosphere can often be tense and aggressive. Responding to this, the entrance is very spacious, personnel are clearly visible, and users can split into different groups according to whether they need to smoke or inject their drugs. Drawing on colour psychology, the entrance is features cool and subtle green and blue hues, promoting a positive impetus amongst users, thereby reducing the likelihood of conflict.
When the users have taken their drugs they enter a restitution area, featuring warmer tones of purple and burgundy, creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere where the users can have a break from the hectic everyday life on the streets. After relaxing, users have the option to continue into an area where they can talk with counsellors or health personnel. There is also the possibility of attending different activities – such as classes, gymnastics, movie viewing etc.
Rikke Haugaard, leading architect on The Drug Consumption Center says: “In order to create great architecture you have to be able to empathize with the living and working conditions of other people. When it comes to drug users their conditions are very extreme, and at the same time it is very life-affirming to experience the people who, on a daily basis, fight for the dignity and a proper life for the most exposed groups in our society.”
A Thorough End-User Process to Establish the Right Balance between Hard and Soft Values
In order to create a place and a space that satisfies the need of the users for domestic and worthy surroundings, as well as meeting the requirements of security and safety of stakeholders like the police, the staff, different authorities etc., it was necessary to establish a multi-staged user-involvement process. PLH facilitated the process through meetings and workshops …
"In a project like this it has been extremely important to reach the right balance between harder and softer values and the contrasting needs that the different stakeholders have “ says Lars Toksvig
The Location and the Interests of the Stakeholders
With the goal of supporting the local community as well as drug-users, the drug consumption center aims to reduce drug related problems on street level.
The Drug Consumption Center is located in Vesterbro in central Copenhagen – a neighborhood where many of the users are based. It was important to locate the center in a central, as well as an anonymous, location thereby making it easily accessible to users, without causing too much inconvenience to residents and others in the area. In the design and layout of the outdoor areas, it is taken into consideration that the police have the upper hand in regards to illegal drug-dealings; privacy is assured by preventing passers-by and neighbors to look in on to the premises.
"The location on Halmtorvet next to fashionable restaurants in Vesterbro shows how diverse, generous and tolerant a society we live in. In my perception, Vesterbro in Copenhagen is the only neighborhood where it is possible to place this type of center in such a central location in a capital city" says Lars Toksvig.