We believe that regardless of where we live or how old we are, we all want to live in well-designed, functional and attractive spaces that are generous and flexible and make us feel comfortable and safe. As a society we value our privacy and independence, and our wellbeing depends on sufficient daylight, fresh air and access to green amenity spaces. But above all we need to feel a sense of belonging and a social connection with both our immediate neighbours and the wider community. Some of these qualities are particularly relevant to the design of housing for older people and we have summarised some of the key issues below:
Overcoming loneliness and social isolation: The design of our projects for new retirement communities not only facilitate independent living but provide spaces that encourage social interaction and help to foster a sense of community. At Steepleton apartment clusters are arranged around a communal courtyard or productive garden encouraging neighbourly interaction. A key element of the courtyard clusters is ‘the Ambulatory’, a cloistered walkway at ground and first floor level. This is not merely conceived as a way of circulating through each cluster but provides seating areas for meeting neighbours, afternoon tea or even playing chess.
Creating links between the internal and external environment: As many residents will spend extended periods of time in their apartments, it is important to provide easy access to outdoor space and maximise the amount of natural light within each home, helping to contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing. At Latheram House balconies are designed to provide a visual and physical connection between the inside and outside world by forming an additional external room and encouraging residents to spend time outside while still enjoying the safety of their own space. A staggered balcony arrangement within the courtyard allows a dialogue to occur between neighbours.
Providing a flexible living environment: It is important that apartment layouts are designed with flexibility in mind, allowing for adaptation as residents circumstances change. At Steepleton the self-contained one and two bed apartments consist of living and bedroom spaces, private kitchens and bathrooms, alongside generous private outdoor space. Sliding walls within each apartment offer greater spatial flexibility. The maisonettes make full use of the roof void to enhance day lighting into each dwelling and boost the sense of space within units by the incorporation of a double height space.
Connecting with the local context and history: We take inspiration from the history of the site and surrounding historic buildings and structures to create a strong design narrative for new developments. A Medieval Franciscan Friary which historically occupied part of the site at Chapter House in Lichfield provided a powerful precedent and inspiration for the proposed development’s spatial arrangement and architectural language. The accommodation is arranged as a series of courtyards and cloisters that not only reference the Friary’s expressive gables, integrated landscape and cloistered monastic court, but also provide a comfortable, friendly and accessible environment for the Chapter House residents.
Integrating existing communities: Open space and creating connections with the local community are important factors in all our designs. The development site at Chapter House included a historic garden called ‘Monks Walk’ which has been lovingly maintained by local volunteers. Our design enhances Monks Walk by extending the garden into a new shared courtyard containing generous amenity spaces for residents and visitors alike. Both residents and the local community are invited to explore and form new relationships through sharing a space and a passion for gardening. With this in mind the development incorporates a new garden equipment store for use by all those who maintain both ‘Monks Walk’ and the new communal landscaped courtyard.