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1 May 2017
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Klaipėda has got a crisis centre for women
that is probably going to be a pioneering
example for such centres worldwide

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7091.JPG

Text and photos: Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief/M.Sc. of Architecture
aage.myhre@VilNews.com

Let me today take you to the new crisis centre for women in Klaipeda. The building opened a few days ago, but still there is no furniture and staff in place, hence the centre will be ready to accommodate 'patients' only later in the fall. I myself have been involved in this project for more than three years now, and I wanted to share with you some thoughts on how this centre has evolved and today stands out as something rather exceptional, in Lithuania but also on an international scale.

When we started the project, there were three main messages we wanted the centre to signal to women who would come here to get help in an emergency situation after having been exposed to violence at home or elsewhere:

1.    Here you are in safety
2.    Here you will find warmth, care and understanding
3.    Here you will be taken care of by professionals

I believe wise architecture can be tremendously helpful in facilitating for the noble cause of a centre like this, make it much more than just a building, rather a lighthouse for many women and children who will be coming here for protection, therapy and help, hopefully making them feel stronger and self confident, so that they afterwards can return to their homes as individuals with a more positive view on life, knowing that there is hope and a future based on positive values.

The main three factors mentioned above should in my opinion all be strictly observed while creating a crisis centre for women. Below some of the main solutions we have done for the Klaipeda centre in order to find concrete, physical answers to these three factors:

 

 

1.    SAFETY

·         The Klaipeda centre has been designed with strict safety and security in mind. The ‘patients’ coming here will be women, sometimes with children, who have been exposed to terrible violence in their homes or elsewhere, and they need to feel totally safe as soon as they arrive at the centre.

·         There is also a risk that the person who commits the violence crime will try to follow them into the centre to continue the abuse, and it has therefore been utterly important to design the building and outdoor areas in such a way that this cannot happen.

·         The building and its outdoor areas also demonstrates the ‘impression of safety’, first and foremost by the use of special design patterns and very solid materials in exteriors and interiors.

·         The building’s main entrance, where the women first will arrive and be taken care of, is located at the only street with access to the centre. This is also the building’s northern facade. The entrance cannot be seen from the street, and the facade has few windows for anyone to see what goes on inside. To have the access facade closed like this means safety and security, and will in my opinion give the women and their children a clear feeling of being under protection as soon as they are safely inside the building.

·         The building’s southern facades have much glass, letting the sun in, still difficult to look into from outside due to the high fence and the very design of the outdoor areas.

·         The building is u-shaped, with an atrium where the women can sit outdoor in a protected area.   

·         There is little possibility for people from outside to look in through windows, or over the high fences around the building.

·         The building and the outdoor areas are always lighted after darkness.

·         Surveillance cameras are connected to reception monitors, and there is installed a high tech access control system with cameras at entrance gates and entrance doors.

·         Car parking for the ‘patients’ is located within the fenced area so that the women are safely inside the secured site before leaving their cars or other means of transport before entering the very building.

·         All technical equipment, fixtures, fittings, as well as surface materials, is of good quality, not flammable or breakable, so that the women and children in such difficult periods of their lives do not destroy or hurt themselves in situations of fear and potential aggression.

·         Equipment in kitchen, bathrooms and other premises are secured in order to avoid burning, damages, flood etc., including child protection of taps, sockets, cookers and radiators.

·         All surface materials and interior elements are easy to clean and disinfect – in order to avoid infections, insects, lice, fleas, viruses, bacteria, plus dust and dirt in general.

 

 

2.    WARMTH AND CARE

·         The centre is designed to be felt as utterly warm and welcoming – something that has been addressed not least by making the building look more like a home than an institution.

·         The building and its surroundings is characterised by welcoming, warm colours and materials, genuine yellow-brown bricks, dark grey roof tiles and other materials that give the impression of a cosy home.

·         The outdoor areas, the playground for children, the plants etc. are all designed with joyful play and happy living in mind.

·         Corridors, doors, floors and other elements are all in warm colours.

·         All the 20 ‘patient’ rooms are like small, cosy hotel rooms, each with separate bathrooms and balconies.

·         There are only single rooms, all with space for a child bed in addition to the main bed, offering total privacy for the mother and potential following child.

·         The outdoor areas are as thoroughly planned as the indoor rooms – with green grass, plants, pathways, areas for playing and activities that I believe will contribute to positive emotions and reactions for the children and their mothers.

·         Water is very important. There are bathrooms with showers in each room, plus other cleaning possibilities for the women who may feel ‘dirty and unclean’ after the abuses and harassments they probably have been exposed to before coming to the centre. Water has also, by itself, a healing effect.

·         Fresh air is important – hence easy access to outdoor areas is a must – all rooms have balconies, and there are outdoor terraces, as well as green areas, playgrounds etc. I believe the feeling of being ‘strangled’ is common for women in a life situation like this, and that access to fresh air therefore is utterly important, but in a way that does not expose the ‘patients’ to audience from outside. Also this is solved by the way the centre is designed.

·         The TV-room, the dining room and other rooms for activities are planned for best possible interaction, uplifting activities and joy between the women and their children.

 

 

3.    PROFESSIONAL CARE

·         The building’s reception, the therapy rooms and other common areas are planned for efficiency but also with the aim to give the ‘patients’ a feeling of safety, love, comfort and care. That someone is there to help and understand.

·         'Patients' in the crisis centre will all be offered therapy of various kinds; from doctors, psychologists, sociologists and other professionals. There will also be offered group therapy and other activities that will make women the most fit to return to their homes. The special rooms for these purposes are all designed for efficiency and for the strengthening of the therapy efforts.

·         The ‘therapy wing’ of the building looks more like an institution than the other parts of the building, ‘hidden’ a bit behind the more home-like parts. The ‘patients’ should thereby understand that a very important part of their time here is to undergo different kinds of professional therapies and consultations that will better enable them to return to their homes afterwards.

 

 

As you will understand, many of these points have also to do with how the staff will act and behave, and it is in my opinion of utmost importance that the personnel as well as therapists, doctors and others will understand how the centre’s physical frames can enhance activities and lives inside the centre.

I also believe that the country’s authorities, politicians as well as administrative employees – in municipality, county, ministries, government and the presidential office – should try to understand the importance of correct planning of centres like this in order to better support the individuals and institutions directly involved in helping and supporting the women and the children that are exposed to violence in their homes as well as in public spaces.

Correct architecture can also function as a fine demonstration of good will and warm cooperation between institutions and people working within these institutions.

A well planned crisis centre will, furthermore, make it easier for media to understand what this complex of problems related to violence against women basically is about, and the general public can then through media get a better understanding and thereby potentially contribute to a number of preventative measures in their neighbourhoods, communities, counties and even on national level.

There is so much more I could have said and tried to explain, and my hope is that those involved in planning of centres like this in the future will study and communicate more deeply about causes and measures that can be used to create healing buildings and environments, than what often is the case today.

I hope the people of Lithuania will understand how important a crisis centre like this is in healing and preventative efforts for the women and children exposed to violence and abuse, and I sincerely hope the design and functionality of this new women’s shelter will come to represent a strong message of care, compassion and concrete help to individuals in difficult life situations. 

The difference between a good and a less good crisis centre is huge, and I am happily confident that 

Klaipeda now has a centre that will emerge as one of the best in the world.

In the planning of the centre, the authorities, both at local and national level, have been active partners in relation to improved legislation and improved procedures for cases and conditions where women are subjected to violence.

Also Lithuania's diplomatic corps has played an invaluable role in this process, and I feel sincere gratitude to all those who have supported and participated in this important process which I fervently hope will be a new 'lighthouse' of hope and mutual respect and human understanding in Lithuania and around in our fantastic but vulnerable world where violence unfortunately still is far too common.

The Crisis Centre in Klaipeda has become a reality thanks to an initiative of and financial support from the Danish Espersen Foundation. Espersen is a world leader in fish processing, with factory in Klaipeda since 2003. The firm and its affiliated Foundation aims to contribute to the communities where they are established with business, and this has now given Klaipeda a new social institution in a most distinguished manner.

Corporate Responsibility from a private foundation and company at its very best!

Also Klaipeda Municipality and EU has contributed funding for the centre.

 

The building and its outdoor areas

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7094.JPG 
The Klaipeda crisis centre for women is designed to be felt as utterly warm and welcoming – something that has been addressed not least by making the building look more like a home than an institution. The building and its surroundings is characterised by welcoming, warm colours and materials, genuine yellow-brown bricks, dark grey roof tiles and other materials that give the impression of a cosy home. The outdoor areas, the playground for children, the plants etc. are all designed with joyful play and happy living in mind. The building also relates to the nearby policlinic on one side and a residential area on the other side.  

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7095.JPG
The building’s main entrance, where the women first will arrive and be taken care of, is located at the only street with access to the centre. This is also the building’s northern facade. The entrance cannot be seen from the street, and the facade has few windows for anyone to see what goes on inside. To have the access facade closed like this means safety and security, and will in my opinion give the women and their children a clear feeling of being under protection as soon as they are safely inside the building. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7047.JPG Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7049.JPG
The entrance to the building offers lots of light inside, still unseen from outside.
Covered by a roof, the place to put baby strollers etc. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7050.JPG
Car parking for the ‘patients’ is located within the fenced area so that the women are safely inside the secured site before leaving their cars or other means of transport before entering the very building. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7054.JPG 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7051.JPG
The outdoor areas, the playground for children, the plants etc. are all designed with
joyful play and happy living in mind. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7057.JPG Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7072.JPG
Fresh air is important – hence easy access to outdoor areas is a must – all rooms have balconies, and there are outdoor terraces, as well as green areas, playgrounds etc. I believe the feeling of being ‘strangled’ is common for women in a life situation like this, and that access to fresh air therefore is utterly important, but in a way that does not expose the ‘patients’ to audience from outside. Also this is solved by the way the centre is designed. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7060.JPG

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7059.JPG
The building’s southern facades have much glass, letting the sun in, still difficult to look into from outside due to the high fence and the very design of the outdoor areas. The building is u-shaped, with an atrium where the women can sit outdoor in a protected area. There is little possibility for people from outside to look in through windows, or over the high fences around the building.

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7088.JPG
The ‘therapy wing’ of the building looks more like an institution than the other parts of the building, ‘hidden’ a bit behind the more home-like parts. The ‘patients’ should thereby understand that a very important part of their time here is to undergo different kinds of professional therapies and consultations that will better enable them to return to their homes afterwards.

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7065.JPG Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7074.JPG
Corridors, doors, floors and other elements are all in warm colours. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7075.JPG Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7076.JPG
All the 20 ‘patient’ rooms are like small, cosy hotel rooms, each with separate bathrooms and balconies.
There are only single rooms, all with space for a child bed in addition to the main bed, offering total
privacy for the mother and potential following child.

 

The people who made it possible

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7062.JPG Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-05-19 001\IMG_6274.JPG
Dalia Puidokiene, Executive Director, Klaipeda Social and Psychological Support Centre,
and
Audronė Liesytė, Head of Social Care Division at Klaipeda Municipality.

 

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The Klaipeda Municipality team in full swing planning the crisis centre, May 2011. Tomas Barsevičius, Project Manager (Project Division), Elona Jurkevičienė, Head of the Projects Division, and Aušra Tautkevičiūtė, Chief Specialist of Construction and Infrastructure Development Division.

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-05-19 001\IMG_6277.JPG
See also http://vilnews.com/?p=12304

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These two women will be responsible for the operation of the crisis centre; Rita Bratėnaitė-Vitkienė, Director, and Lina Krasauskienė, Subdivision Manager, Klaipeda Municipality Family and Child Welfare Centre.

 

 

Government, Municipality and the Diplomatic Corps

 Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-05-19 001\IMG_6273.JPG
Also Lithuania's diplomatic corps has played an invaluable role in this process, and I feel sincere gratitude to all those who have supported and participated in this important process which I fervently hope will be a new 'lighthouse' of hope and mutual respect and human understanding in Lithuania and around in our fantastic but vulnerable world where violence unfortunately still is far too common. In May 2012 Ambassador of South Africa to Denmark and Lithuania, Ms. Samkelisiwe I. Mhlanga came to greet the team working with the centre.
Read about the visit and her speech at http://vilnews.com/?p=14054 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7080.JPG Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7036.JPG 
Finland‘s Ambassador Marja-Liisa Kiljunen and Denmark‘s Ambassador Jørgen Molde. 

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Advisor of the Klaipeda Mayor, Simonas Gentvilas and
Ingrid Susanne Farner, Deputy Head of Mission at the Norwegian Embassy. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-05-19 001\IMG_6272.JPG       Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7035.JPG 
The extraordinary supportive Klaipeda Mayor, Vytautas Grubliauskas, and
Dalija Seporaitiene, Head of Family Policy Department, Ministry of social Security & Labour. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7012.JPG Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7040.JPG
Had it not been for the Danish Espersen Foundation, there wouldn’t have been a crisis centre for women in Klaipeda now. Here Lene Holm Nielsen, who has represented the Foundation in such a brilliant, warm manner, and Chairman of A. Espersen A/S, board member the Espersen Foundation, Vagn Thorup. 

Description: C:\Users\Aage\Pictures\2012-09-09 001\IMG_7097.JPG 

See also:
http://vilnews.com/?p=3571  
http://vilnews.com/?p=3568 
http://vilnews.com/?p=1642 
http://vilnews.com/?p=562

Category : Featured black / Health & wellbeing



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