I’ll be talking at House Of The Commons in Oxford (9th-12th October) on behalf of Jon Broome Architects - covering self-build housing, recent planning policy developments and precedent projects and the role of resident-controlled housing at the heart of sustainability…

House Of The Commons aims to establish a counter-narrative to that of the MIPIM commercial development fair, occurring concurrently in London.

19 Drawings in 19 Days - Jul/Aug 2014, China (Part 2)

London > Moscow > Beijing > Harbin > Beijing > Hangzhou > Beijing > Moscow > London

19 Drawings in 19 Days - China, Jul/Aug 2014 (Part 1)

London > Moscow > Beijing > Harbin > Beijing > Hangzhou > Beijing > Moscow > London.

1 drawing per day. Ink. A6 sketchbook.

Neft Daşları, Azerbaijan - a floating oil city of 2500 people, mosque, school, football team, park - testament to humankind’s reckless pursuit of burning oil … read more via the Basement Geographer here.

Neft Daşları, Azerbaijan - a floating oil city of 2500 people, mosque, school, football team, park - testament to humankind’s reckless pursuit of burning oil … read more via the Basement Geographer here.

Designing homes for older people

Some thoughts as we progress with strategic design for a 21-unit ‘care-ready’ independent living retirement development for downsizers in southern England…

So what are the most important things to consider when designing housing for older people?

Well, firstly, this is still housing, and as such shares qualities with any housing brief, with which we have a great deal of experience.

The priority here, simply, is to make housing that - with a fair wind - new residents will be able to stay in for the rest of their lives, and live contented, fulfilling lives that balance the need for quiet privacy with the need for a stimulating social environment. They will be moving in at a certain stage in their lives, and view the future in a certain way - and value buildings in a way that correlates to these - and so this is something that we as designers need to anticipate and allow for in our proposals. For example, this might include a requirement for peace and quiet - yet also a vicarious concern about isolation.

The 2009 HAPPI report (DoH/HCA “Housing an Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation”) becomes a key point of reference - and its ten recommendations become the canon from which design drivers are derived.

Generous internal space standards - HAPPI recommends 54m2 and 70m2 for a 1-bed and 2-bed apartment respectively[1] - are a primary aim. Older people, almost logically, will have collected artefacts throughout their years and it’s nice to be able to display these. Storage, similarly - either within the home or without it - takes on increased value to residents, allowing them to archive things too precious to throw away yet too obtrusive -or perhaps too private - to keep out.

A minimum of three habitable rooms is recommended - having people to stay (visiting relatives, for example) is often cited as an essential capacity - as well as allowing for flexibility in the internal layout to permit not only future adaptation when a spouse passes away, or overnight care become needed, but also to allow for flexibility of tenure in the management of the development and the ability to alter the mix of accommodation on offer should it become necessary to do so. This becomes as much about creating ‘care ready’ homes, rather than creating care homes - and anticipating the future trajectory of care provision, for example, towards apartments wired for tele-care and nomadic community-based care programmes that require ‘base spaces’ in retirement developments - becomes very important.

Good daylighting to dwellings is another key tenet of HAPPI principles - to connect the interior to the outside world and to bring the outside in. The benefit of good daylighting to health, especially mental health, cannot be over-estimated and becomes even more critical as people age and their ability to ‘get out more’ diminishes. Providing dual-aspect accommodation with access to a small amount of private outdoor space can help with ensuring that residents have access to good daylighting. Carrying good daylighting through to common and circulation spaces can prevent the accommodation from feeling ‘institutional’, as does avoiding double-loaded corridors as a means of access to dwellings. However, it is the detailing of windows as well as their overall size that influences the quality of daylighting in dwellings. Windows that make it easy to sit near them, for example, because they have a sill that can be used as a seat or a small shelf for a coffee cup can be a great asset in residents’ efforts to sit in the sunshine and encourage dwellers to dwell at the edge of their space, increasing the likelihood of a sense of connection to activities or places outside the home. Full height windows, for example, can welcome daylight into the full depth of a room by throwing it across the ceiling and into corners.

Orientating the building layout to chime with its surroundings can add a great deal of value to a scheme in terms of what it feels like to be inside and look outside. Celebrating an existing tree as a focal point, or introducing new gardens as part of a landscape strategy helps to imbue the development with ‘positive external spaces’ - those that will grow to be well used and loved - as set out by Christopher Alexander in ‘A Pattern Language’. Winter gardens - hugely successfully deployed by sector-specialists PRP Architects at Pilgrim Gardens and other places - can provide cost-effective extensions to the home, useable for nine-months of the year for drying washing, sitting or breakfasting and ease the transition between inside and out, whilst also providing an added layer of still air as thermal buffer in wintertime. If the whole development is as ‘car-free’ as possible, making use of shared surfaces to minimise the territory perceived as only that of the car, resident’s feeling of ownership over - and connection to - the landscape will be greatly enhanced.

Providing the right amount and type of shared space is perhaps the most important aspect of designing for older people, as it is the most direct spatial device we have to mitigate the dangers of isolation and encourage residents to interact. Not all developments are of a sufficient scale to provide a range of facilities such as gyms, pools, shops and hair salons, but common rooms designed with kitchen facilities integrated and adjacent can be hired out occasionally as function rooms, bringing people into the area from outside and injecting some strangeness to keep the place alive. Besides this, places to sit in the grounds, or on landings - and especially spaces to linger outside front doors - can be of huge benefit, and can be well anchored in a reading of Alexander’s ‘six-foot balcony’, again from ‘A Pattern Language’. As ever, management of these spaces has an effect at least as significant as any design moves made to create them. Other kinds of space - such as laundries, roof terraces or a cinema room - can serve as social hubs within small clusters of dwellings and this can be seen to be particularly effective in some of the German ‘Baugruppe’ models, where small shared spaces are often scattered throughout apartment blocks commissioned collectively by groups of people who come together to procure homes they can age well in. Cohousing, as some of these German examples are, also offers an interesting perspective on the idea of mutuality in old age - perhaps having smaller flats in return for a greater area of shared spaces, and the support of a community as you age

So it’s simple really - many of the priorities are simply the same as they are for good housing of any type.


[1] The Department of Health (DoH) and Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) HAPPI report gives these figures in its main 2009 report - however, the Design & Access statement for PRP Architects ‘Pilgrim Gardens Independent Living’ scheme in Evington near Leicester lists 54m2 and 68m2 (for 1-bed and 2-bed apartments respectively) as meeting Wheelchair Housing Design Guide and the DoH Factsheet for ‘Extra Care’ dwellings.

Seville architect Santiago Cirugeda - and practice Recetas Urbanas - feature in Part 1 of ‘Rebel Architecture’ on Al Jazeera. 25mins of self-building ever week, Monday’s at 23:30 CET (22:30 GMT)….

Read the Uncube Magazine feature on the series here - they’ll also be featuring the youtube video of each week’s show after it has aired on Al Jazeera.

'Self-Build Signpost' CPD at Hawkins\Brown last week….photos courtesy of Martha Shields!

I am enthusiastic about drawing on the spot. As opposed to the photograph, the artist is able to use all the senses plus memory, and the power to edit and prioritise.
Bryan Mackay-Lyons - Nova-Scotian Architect talks in praise of his local vernacular...

Nova-Scotian architect Bryan Mackay-Lyons talks evocatively about the material culture that informed the design of the Messenger House, and about how the building is ‘draped’ on the landscape - its architecture secondary to the experience of gaining the crest of a hill and being gifted a view…

Data Visualisation resources…

I’ve stumbled across a couple of data visualisation resources that I don’t want to lose…

Maps.Stamen.com - looks like plug-ins you can use to style OpenStreetMap data for display.

OnThinkTanks - a library of data visualisation resources…