Post Service is a new ‘facilitation studio addressing death and grief’ that just opened in Copenhagen, led by mental health practitioner Xanthippi de Vito and designed by multidisciplinary studio Tableau.
The project started in 2015, when de Vito began wondering about her experience as a practitioner, and about how mental health could be enriched through design. ‘Within health and wellness, there are certainly communities engaging with deep and meaningful connections but I never found a communal experience that really resonated with me, so I’ve been working on piecing together what that community and experience feel like,’ says de Vito. ‘It was intuitive that art and design will play major roles in the experience.’
Post Service: a Copenhagen mental health space designed by Tableau
The clinic operates as a combination of health coaching and mindfulness practices, run by de Vito: private talk sessions are integrated with the use of an infrared sauna, movement room, or personal time in the all-inclusive space. Post Service will play host to gatherings and events that foster a sense of community (with the golden rule of ‘no discussing work’), such as movie nights, dinners and conversations.
De Vito had discovered the work of Tableau (the Copenhagen-based studio founded by Julius Værnes Iversen and evolved from a flower shop into a fully fledged design operation) via social media and, in her words, she ‘low-key creeped on Julius’ until she finally ran into him and approached the studio for the project.
‘For me, it is a very honourable task to get a spatial design project where the main focus is to design a space where people will mourn and talk about their inner difficult thoughts and feelings,’ says Iversen. The brief he received from de Vito included ‘no earth tones and no fluffy white couch’, with the aim of creating a more inclusive and representative space.
‘I made clear that the entire experience, from walking in and taking off your shoes, passing through the doors of the space, to ritualising the exit, needs to be mindfully designed and together we set out to curate a space that flips the rhetoric and welcomes a playful sense of curiosity,’ explains de Vito.
The result is a space where art, furniture and lighting are, in Iversen’s words ‘all a part of the practice of healing’. Every aspect of the interiors has come together into a mood that is both serious and playful, strict and calm, with the function of healing at the core. Each room, Iversen explains, is painted with very subtle tones and cold shades on walls and woodwork. The ceilings match the walls, but are in much darker tones. Iversen says: ‘In this way, you feel sort of grounded, it's like a large blanket is coming down on you.’
A year-long design collaboration
Led by Iversen, the clinic’s interior is a truly collaborative effort. Working closely with de Vito on the concept, Tableau gathered a series of local designers, artists and makers to create bespoke objects and furniture.
The space features is a therapeutic day bed by Carsten in der Elst facing a large palm tree (plants, Tableau’s original area of expertise, play a small but significant role throughout the space), an aluminium dining set by Thomas Gayet, a styrofoam sofa by Kristine Mandsberg, and lighting by Arnaud Eubelen made of 95 per cent recycled materials collected from waste centres. Artist Anna Clarisse Holck Wærhens was commissioned to create robes and towels that are both heavy and soft, giving the user a sense of being hugged.
‘All objects are made to surprise you in some way,’ says Iversen, pointing to the succession of extremely hard and soft surfaces, textile-covered walls. To convey a sense of comfort, lighting can be set to very cold or warm, depending on its function. ‘I really believe that design can take a big part in helping a person become better: already by intriguing a person when they walk in the door you have made sure that the person is as receptive as possible towards talking about difficult subjects and feelings.’
De Vito describes the space as ‘a sanctuary: a safe haven with a few sharp metal edges’, she jokes. ‘I am stunned by the vision and execution of the team at Tableau. As a mental health practitioner, I am so grateful for the opportunity to welcome participants into the immersive experience of Post Service and share space together as they engage with vulnerability and receptivity.’
Most importantly, Post Service is a safe space, somewhere to encourage clients to be playful and truthful with their feelings, to relax and recalibrate emotionally, intellectually and physically. And all this, de Vito stresses, is largely done through design. ‘There is a very real emotional and intellectual connection to our physical environments,’ she concludes. ‘So it makes practical and logical sense to incorporate design into healing spaces, in particular mental health spaces. We deserve creatively rooted environments to experience ourselves within, and it’s time for design to have a permanent seat at the table of mental health.’
Jens Kofods Gade 1
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Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.
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