It is a sign of our times to see new projects as these being tendered out for design ,usually even in a form of design contest or similar. It is as if our society finds itself in need of a statement, maybe of an excuse, as if high design quality can overcome a shortcoming.
The specific conditions of old age Alzheimer is a profound regulator of what is and what is not possible for this building to achieve, and a lot can be said on agency or not for people suffering this terrible disease, but it puts us as designers in a humble position: there is so little we can do, except reflect, comment, and translate inside to outside. This is what we emphasized in our design choices, from the vivid coloured façade to the internal stress patterns in the concrete rendered visible by special painting techniques.
Throughout our industrialized world, elderly care has become institutional as households are all going out to work, more and more families disassemble and the informal economy of households run by partners staying home to take care of- slowly vanishes.
It is no surprise to then see two things happening: on one hand a professionalization of all care processes and a financialization of care, away from the money-free care by the core family, on the other hand a more conscious understanding of what elderly people need in terms of care, now that populations are growing older and older in average and care is expensive in manhours and in infrastructural needs.
It is understanding this stress on our built environment that led us to compete for this assignment, because to stay on the side is not how we can bring other solutions and other insights to the table.
We came up with a mixture of communal living schemes and downright hotel services, we designed for generous interior spaces and a joyful building envelope. And we took care to chose healthy materials and design for circularity.
This is a building where people are allowed to have fun, enjoy the care and attention given to them, even though there is no denying of the many regulations and slightly correctional model that seem to govern authorities in their view on institutional care facilities as there is no denial either of the specific condition of very old people in need of high levels of professional care.
We are not yet entirely satisfied with the result, it twill take our clients and society at large another generation before we shall be able to have the individual care replacing the grouped care of the larger compounds. But as a building it allows for co-living in a much broader way and with more agency for its inhabitants.
And of course, also this building is circular to a high extent, nearly energy neutral and especially healthy in the choice of materials that could impact on indoor air quality.
- Ecological consultancy: VIBE, BE
- Jan Meijer, structural engineers, BE
- Flow Transfer International, M&E consulting engineers