The Living Space Architects team recently attended the Housing Lin conference in Bristol entitled: Great Expectations: Building Healthy Communities and Homes for our Ageing Society.
Later living housing and building homes for the ageing is something that resonates strongly with our values and efforts, and we were interested to learn about other architects ideas in this area, and
the latest developments taking place.
We enjoyed an inspirational day exploring the themes of inclusive design and holistic communities, as well as the financial costs of later living care, both in the building itself and then making sure these spaces are sustained over time.
So what are the problems associated with later living housing and why is this something we should be concerned about? Why, as keynote speaker Paula Broadbent, Retirement Director at Keepmoat suggested, are 600,000 older people currently residing in poor-quality homes?
Homes that are inappropriate for later living can include those that:
- Exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolations: Through inappropriate location and transport links and lack of diversity in the local community
- Are too cold: Due to poor insulation or being in a bad state of repair
- Are too hot: Where occupants have limited control over the temperature of their home
- Have no space for hobbies or fun: Such as not allowing residents to own a pet, or not having a garden to grow veggies etc
- Have limited bedroom options: Limited to single bed and not allowing for flexibility for family or personal circumstance
- Lack social opportunities: By failing to provide a social mix or space for people to interact and flourish together
- Are inflexible: Lacking standards of space and appropriate layout
- Are ugly: Not being visually attractive is an issue! People want to feel proud of their home and others should aspire to live there
Despite the phrase ‘planning ahead’ being voiced time and time again throughout of our daily lives, the reality is that we rarely have the time or inclination to take the notion seriou
sly- and take immediate action. Keynote Speaker Tony Watt OBE, Chairman if the Southwest Forum on Ageing, explained how important it is to make a change before it is too late and we have reached a ‘point of crisis’. He highlighted that older people are often very conscious of how they will be perceived if they downsize from their current property for which they have worked hard for, and that this is one of the key barriers involved in this preparation for later life.
From our experience, we have also realised that there is too much focus on housing as a capital resource, and that this leads to people staying in their homes for longer. This can be problematic, as these houses can often be too large and are not always appropriate for later life.
Downsizing at an earlier stage can mean that people are more likely to better negotiate a more flexible property, ensuring they find a mutually supportive and evolving community.
So why isn’t this downsizing progression occurring more frequently? Here we face a major problem- throughout urban and rural areas, a lack of enticing and affordable property deter people from making this significant step and change to their lives. Furthermore, the lack of variety of tenure required to suit the spectrum
of ambitions makes this move a risky feet and for many, not worth the costs involved. If the issues are addressed- and sooner rather than later- a platform for a safe and fulfilling later life for all could become a reality.
However, there are some schemes which offer hope that things are moving in the right direction. Living Space Architects take later living very seriously, and understand that quality, innovation and creativity is not something that comes at the expense of making a house functional for later years. We are always keen to consult with local people, developers and care providers and use our contextual knowledge and innovative thinking to help shape the later living accommodation of the future for the better. We are taking action now.
When thinking of creative new ideas and designs, we often draw on inspiration from abroad.
This year, we have been fortunate enough to be joined by architect Rocio Oteros from Spain. His interest in housing for later living has offered us unique insight into how this issue is approached in Spain and how it compares to ideas in the UK.
As a firm that is constantly changing and developing, all creative ideas are of value and can spark further ideas and be used as inspiration.
Rocio shared with us three examples from Spain, that show creative use of space and innovative design to enhance the lives of the elderly in their living spaces.
Housing for the Elderly. Seville.
The building was located in a central district of Seville and its architecture was carefully and profoundly detailed. The project worked like a small city where functionality and domesticity merged into a fresh environment. The building was designed to encourage social interaction and integration of a diverse range of people. It had a three-storey building, with plenty of common areas and flexible spaces where residents could dine or socialise together. Common units- like the canteen, medical practices and offices- were located on the ground floor and connected to the outside space that hugged the shape of the building and worked well as a meeting place. The dwellings were located on the first and second floors and articulated along corridors which opened out into communal rooms and outside spaces. This allowed the residents to have spontaneous meetings and areas to socialise.
Later living hounsing in Intxaurrondo. Donosti – San Sebastian.
This project in San Sebastian was located on a site with a sloping topography which made it a challenging project in terms of accessibility. However, this meant that the creativity and innovation involved was even more complex, unique and interesting, making this design particularly special. The proposal consisted of three volumes attached to the boundary of the site. This provided a solution for the slope and created a fantastic open courtyard that worked like a shared plaza. The architects intended to maximise the interaction between the users in this space. The location of the buildings allowed daylight to penetrate the central space and move into the dwellings. Light entered by the windows and terraces creating natural feel and a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere. The tree towers had the same shape although vary in orientation and number of storeys. The apartments were articulated by the circulation core, which was positioned towards the interior of the plaza by the entrances to the buildings. The housing typology was quite basic and simple, adapted to the needs of the elderly. The interior of the dwellings were organised around a central block formed by the kitchen and the bathroom. The living spaces had great views- either facing the open spaces in the heart of the complex or the green area that surrounded the buildings.
Santa Caterina Market Housing. Barcelona.
This extremely original intervention in an historic area in Barcelona was based on the restoration of the Santa Caterina’s Market, and housing units for the elderly were inserted as part of the project. The build was no small feat- 59 houses were created make up of two main developments and a sculptural ensemble. This design created an open interior space which connected with the market and was at the heart of the city centre. The idea was to provide homes for older people who love living in the city centre but relied on safe and adaptable spaces. The standard floor layout had a main corridor that arranged the dwellings to maximise sunlight hours. Despite the standard floor layout, the number of apartments on each floor was different to create terraces and common spaces, where residents could spend time together.
The houses were apartments of one or two bedrooms, very simply organised. Every single house consisted of a personal entrance, a bathroom, a living-dining-kitchen, a bedroom and a terrace so activity in the city centre could be overlooked and enjoyed. The main spaces were also always oriented towards outside.