June 24, 2009
Competition produces new visions of seniors’ housing
Toronto’s Burka Architects Inc. has won first place in an international competition designed to generate ideas for affordable seniors’ housing in Atlantic Canada.
The firm’s concept, called Generations Living, envisions an interactive community of multiple generations under one roof. Efficient, modular low-rise residential units provide flexibility to residents as they age.
An atrium space permits year-round activity and conditions the building’s air to promote a healthy environment.
The community-oriented design promotes interaction throughout the common spaces and involvement in the building’s functions.
The concept also provides for private outdoor space through street-side balconies.
Retail spaces are incorporated as well in a four-storey structure.
In addition, depending on context, the concept has the potential to expand horizontally into a larger complex of sustainable density.
“The Generations Living concept is designed to appeal to people of all ages and lifestyles because it contemplates the notion of a community to grow old in,” said Eduardo Ortiz, one of the lead designers on the project.
The design was praised by the judges as an “exceptional” mixed-use community with a focus on wellness and affordability for older people.
The entry was one of a dozen received from architects and students in Canada and the United States. The competition was sponsored by the Atlantic Seniors Housing Research Alliance, which is conducting research into seniors’ housing needs.
Calgary’s Paul Thomas Becher Architecture Inc. took second place with a concept for affordable housing plus additional services. The submission was based on an analysis of 11 existing lodges carried out for Alberta Infrastructure.
The concept includes creating revenue-generating facilities such as an Internet café and a walk-in clinic.
Other services such as housekeeping, meals and home care could be provided to non-residents.
“The proposed design model is based on the observation that many rural senior lodge facilities are not linked to local communities and are often placed on the outer perimeter of the town site,” Becher said in his submission. “A silo effect results.”
He titled his proposal a village for learning, discovery, better health and well being.
“Both entries were very professional, well thought out, clearly explained and well presented,” said Don Shiner, an associate professor at Mount Saint Vincent University and lead investigator on the research project.
While the competition was intended to generate ideas only for innovative and affordable seniors’ housing design, Shiner hopes some of the concepts will be incorporated in actual building projects.
“There is a lot of interest in how we are going to live as we age,” he said in an interview.
“People find the choices at the moment very narrow. They are looking for other options.”
The alliance is a coalition of universities, seniors’ groups, housing developers and government departments.
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