Where do we go to process grief? Following a somber diagnosis or the surgery of a loved one, where, and how, do we find space for healing?
The recently-opened Center for Contemplation and Faith, located at Herlev Hospital and designed by Henning Larsen, represents not just a physical extension of the hospital but a broader perspective on the healing process. The space allows patients and families to find support, faith and solitude in times of personal gravity, providing a more empathetic alternative to waiting room benches or a hospital cafeteria. Its design recognizes the deeply personal process of healing, making space for conversations on life, loss and growth.
“Regardless if you have faith or not, most people occasionally feel a need to talk to someone about the larger questions in life, and to be able to seek peace and calmness,” says Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, Head of the Regional Council in Copenhagen.
“With this new center at Herlev Hospital, we’re taking a great step towards a more human-oriented health care system that does not just watch a patient as someone in need of medication and surgery, but as a person, a human being, with emotional and perhaps spiritual needs.”
The Center for Contemplation and Faith consists of four central rooms within a circular outer ring wall. Three of these rooms are spaces of worship: A small Christian chapel, a Muslim prayer room oriented toward Mecca, and a nondenominational prayer room. The fourth room serves as a central commons, allowing families a shared space for reflection. Reflective pools and lush plantings fill the space between these inner rooms and the circular outer wall, offering natural insulation from the outside world.
This interplay of water, plants and daylight serves to further the space’s role as a place of healing. Recent health research suggests that physical stress symptoms, such as blood pressure and heart rate, drop after even a few minutes’ exposure to natural elements. The scent of rich earth and crisp green foliage stand in contrast to the sterile palette of a hospital corridor, further emphasizing the enclosed tranquility within the building.
Part of Herlev Hospital yet with an atmosphere and pace of its own, the Center for Contemplation and Faith is an exercise in compassionate architecture, establishing a necessary space for personal healing. Matilde Nordahl Svendsen, a priest at Herlev Hospital, is hopeful about the future of the new center.
“At a hospital, we care for the physical treatment of our patients. But at the new center for contemplation and faith, we are also able to offer a beautiful and aesthetical setting for reflection, deep breaths and the possibility to withdraw from the hectic everyday life at the hospital.”