Experts address the myths and truths about getting old and highlight the importance of inviting user participation for optimally designed senior care spaces at the recent Design Conversations panel discussion, held as part of Singapore Indesign 2016.
Dealing with and designing for the ageing population is hardly a new challenge. But more often than not, even in countries where the elderly comprise a substantial part of the demographic, the issues that are pertinent to the care and wellbeing of seniors are often swept under the rug, while the resulting design solutions for elderly care are frequently approached in a clinical manner.
Held as part of the recent Singapore Indesign 2016 event on Saturday 8 October, the Design Conversations panel discussion LiveLife: Future-Proofing our City for Senior Living saw a group of industry experts come together to discuss the creation of age sensitive environments. The speakers included Kang Fong Ing, a partner at COLOURS: Collectively Ours consultancy for collaborative design and placemaking; Dr Chong Keng Hua, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design at SUTD and leader of SUTD’s Social Urban Research Groupe (SURGe); and Joshua Comaroff, design consultant at Lekker Architects.
“There is a lot of social stigma when it comes to elderly care,” said Kang Fong Ing at the start of the discussion. “When people get older and older and their health begins to deteriorate, we start to shy away from addressing these issues openly.”
As part of the discussion, the idea of a more participatory process, where the elderly could have a chance to provide input about the spaces that are being designed for them, came up as an effective way for designers to become more in tune with the needs of the aged. Dr. Chong urged designers to let go of existing assumptions about the elderly and relinquish some of the control over the design process, instead, learning from the users and designing together with them for optimal results. The aspect of learning from the elderly stood out as essential in eliciting informed design responses when attempting to create age sensitive environments. As Comaroff highlighted, “When we talk about seniors, we are talking about an entirely diverse group of people. We have to [create] spaces that allow for different types of activities.”
Bringing up the typology of senior care and senior community centres, Comaroff also called for a re-examination of the disability centred, medical model of caring for the elderly that is seen as the prevalent institutional model. Comaroff highlighted the value in finding ways to domesticate and bring back social and domestic rituals into senior care spaces, much like he and his partner Ong Ker-Shing did for the APEX Harmony Lodge project, to provide comfort and ways to keep the elderly users active and engaged intellectually.
All three speakers spoke of mental, physical and social engagement with surrounding spaces and the larger community as crucial in the design of the elderly care spaces of the future. Warning of the negative aspects of overdesigning spaces, the discussion highlighted environments that could be empowering if they elicited a sense of awareness of the surroundings to keep their users more aware, mobile and agile for a more fulfilling life. “A certain amount of calculated, tolerated risk is important to keep people alert, active and strong,” elaborated Comaroff, with Dr. Chong advocating for spaces that discouraged idle passiveness through design.
“Many seniors feel that they cannot contribute much and that they are not challenged much. In truth, growing old still means growing and learning. How can we, as designers, keep the ageing population challenged and mentally alert?” inquired Chong.
The subject of coming to terms with morality and dealing with death, in many ways, summarised the discussion and highlighted the persistent social stigma associated with the latter stages of growing old. Comaroff lamented the out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality that overshadows the process of passing on and said that the process of coming to terms with the end of life was an integral part of a larger social infrastructure that could not be ignored.
“The way to start openly talking about these difficult moments of transition is to talk about death as a social eco-system,” emphasised Comaroff at the conclusion of the discussion. “Eventually you will have to take care of the person who is currently taking care of someone who is dying. We need to think of death and getting older as part of the larger process and embrace the cycle of life. Only then can we bring more attention to design in this sector.
Setting the stage for multiple forms of consumption, Blacksheep’s design for The Cooking Library in Seoul puts the focus squarely on sensory experiences, emphasised by tactile and analogue design elements.
From the moment you enter the multi-level, multi-faceted space intriguingly dubbed as The Cooking Library, it becomes immediately evident that this culinary-centric place is unlike any other in Seoul.
The Cooking Library is one of four ‘Libraries’ conceived by Hyundai Card – a credit card company under the Hyundai Motor Group. The idea was to create venues that provide an analogue respite from our fast-paced digital lives and to allow for meaningful connections through immersive and emotional experiences. The other three ‘Libraries’ focus on travel, music and design.
Focused on the art of cooking, The Cooking Library (located in Yeongdeungpo-gu, one of Seoul’s most affluent neighbourhoods) was designed by London-based specialist F&B design studio Blacksheep in collaboration with Choi Wook of One O One Architects. It extends beyond the boundaries of its cuisine-based programme with a series of spaces that connect fluidly through craftsmanship, tactility and analogue elements.
The Cooking Library extends across several levels, but Blacksheep’s CEO and founder Tim Mutton notes that the interiors have been intentionally designed without definitive floor distinctions. “Rather than being defined by the five levels, each space is distinguished by the experiences offered within and is linked to the next space through stimulation of the senses – by scent, sound and sight,” he says.
The Cooking Library’s universe of food unfolds sequentially through distinct yet connected settings, with materials, furnishings and fixtures offering clues to the change of function throughout the spatial journey. Inspired by a vision of a humble rural European factory transposed into the heart of Seoul, the interior spaces are defined by practicality and function with a warm and natural aesthetic softening the industrial palette.
Communal bakery and dining spaces on the ground floor are characterised by stone and concrete surfaces complemented by joinery and storage units in oak finishes. The tactile, visually rich journey continues on the next level, where a presentation of condiments becomes a spectacle of crafted luxury with delicately crafted brass, timber and cork accents within the displays.
Up another level, the concept of cooking takes an even more hands-on turn. The Recipe Room and Cooking School and, later, the Greenhouse and Cooking School spaces (one floor up) invite visitors for an active immersion into the world of the culinary arts, with their industrial and domestic settings gently juxtaposing against each other in a series of dynamic spatial dialogues. Below, on the basement level, an extensive pantry offers insight into a working kitchen, with Georgian wire glass panels allowing views of the cooking ingredients. All levels of The Cooking Library have factory-inspired blackened steel sanitary ware and specially commissioned artwork by British artist, David Shrigley.
Enjoying a good meal, attending a guest appearance from a famous chef, browsing cooking books and ingredients, taking part in a cooking lesson, or wandering around a herb garden – with sensorial stimulations aplenty, The Cooking Library embraces the many facets of the culinary arts, allowing the visitors to get excited and get lost in the analogue-driven discoveries of the art of cooking.
This excitement is encapsulated in Mutton’s recollection of one of his favourite details: “The bronze-lettered quote located over a cast iron hand pump at the entrance of the building reads: ‘Through water came life, through life came love.’ We want all guests to embrace and experience the love and art of cooking.”
first China office for backpack manufacturer Herschel Supply, designed by Linehouse, echoes the rapidly transforming urban fabric of its neighbourhood.
Enigmatic and eye-catching, the laneway entrance to the Herschel Supply office in the Jing’An District of Shanghai is a beguiling, asymmetrical feature. It suitably encapsulates the design philosophy of architecture and interior design practice Linehouse, and also serves as a hint to the interior framework that organises the Canadian lifestyle brand’s first China office.
The entrance, like its surrounding site, is as much a revelatory glimpse into the building’s internal activities as an indication of the surrounding urban flux. In this part of the city, many of the old residential structures are being demolished or stripped back, revealing the architectural details of Shanghai’s past.
“We wanted the design to lend itself to the streetscape, to capture this urban quality,” says Briar Hickling, co-founder of Linehouse, about the project’s relationship to its site. “Herschel is a design-driven brand and we aimed to capture both the urban/nature and utilitarian qualities in the spatial design of the office.”
As with many of the firm’s projects, the design process for the Herschel Supply office began with a desire to create a unique spatial experience that, at once, formed a dialogue between the shared and the private zones in the 134-square-metre unit and revealed the process of deconstruction relevant to the neighbourhood context. The design team deliberately used materials such as corrugated metal, concrete, raw steel and black cork to reflect the urban and utilitarian nature of the brand. A pitched metal framework was inserted into the office space as a strong gesture that extends the streetscape into the interior.
Lined with perforated and solid corrugated stainless steel, the framework dictates the different programmes. Glass partitions divide the structure and operable sliding doors unveil or conceal the meeting room and pantry areas to the open workspaces beyond. In some zones, ceiling panels were omitted to open up views to the surrounding structure, further blurring the boundaries between the ‘public’ or shared and the private, and between the new and the previously constructed.
An extension of its neighbourhood, the Hershel Supply Shanghai office is, at once, a part of its urban fabric and an exemplification of change in an evolving urban residential area. Hickling affirms, “Our approach for this project was to create something unique and unexpected, which challenges the traditional notion of what an office or workspace should be.”
Microsoft’s Taipei office by Space Matrix Singapore anchors the global brand in the local culture through spaces that enhance the employee experience and showcase the brand’s products.
For the team at Space Matrix, designing the 75,000-square-foot Microsoft Taipei office was as much of an exercise in understanding the values of the brand as it was a cultural study. In line with the client’s goals for the space, the new office design provides a departure from the previous traditional office environment, unveiling dynamic spaces to cater to the local teams’ needs, while promoting future growth.
Aligning the brand and the local culture was identified as one of the key requirements for the new office. The people-centric aspect became paramount in establishing the overall direction for the design across five floors.
“We believe that spaces are for people,” says Archie Cruda, Associate Director, Design Excellence Centre at the Singapore studio of Space Matrix. “Given that Taipei’s culture is people-centric, there was a seamless alignment in integrating the brand into the local culture and context.”
Across all levels, Space Matrix followed Microsoft’s new global design guidelines for space distribution, devised to cater to various types of human interaction: collaborative, shared and individual work spaces. The client’s main concern was that the teams might resist the changes that would come with the new office, so the design team also gave priority to creating destinations on each floor that would bring people together, building a sense of community in the process.
By bringing contextual considerations into the development of Microsoft Taipei’s office spaces, the design team enabled an easier transition from the old to the new office setting, developing work and social areas rooted in Taipei’s culture.
Thus, level 15 evokes the old heritage Mountain Line Train, level 16 transports its visitors to a lush balcony in a Taipei apartment, level 17 to a Taipei night market, and 18 to a vibrant river front. Level 19 features a customer platform. The team also developed creative graphics to bring elements of the themes to life (for example, the creative use of ceiling lights and graphics represent Taiwan’s night markets).
The integration of Microsoft products in subtle and seamless ways was another key component of the design. In Cruda’s words, “The client wanted to showcase the Microsoft product but in a very subtle, non-confrontational way, believing that technology should not overpower the space but be intuitive and enhance the human experience.” Provisions were implemented to allow visitors to interact with Microsoft’s latest developments within the new office. It shows how technology, when integrated smartly and unobtrusively, can enhance the human experience.
RIBA’s first-ever International Week brings together leading names in architecture to open a global discourse on the roles architects can play in shaping future cities.
With an aim to bring together some of the most renowned architects representing continents around the globe, the Royal British Institute of Architect’s (RIBA’s) inaugural International Week is a high-profile event set to promote constructive discourse and debate on the future of cities.
Tackling the issues of design in an age when more and more people are living in cities than beyond them, leading professionals including Ma Yansong, Sir David Chipperfield, Odile Decq and Amanda Levete, among others, are scheduled to speak at a keystone conference. Titled ‘Change in the City: Opportunities for Architects in the New Agenda’, the conference will comprise a part of the International Week events.
It will address urban design challenges and opportunities as laid out in the ‘New Urban Agenda’ – a framework adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development that tackles how cities should be planned. The conference’s roster of international speakers will seek experts’ perspectives and examine key opportunities for architects highlighted in the New Urban Agenda.
Anchoring on three main themes – housing, cohesive society and cultural heritage – the panel of experts will seek to interpret what the New Urban Agenda defined by the UN summit (and attended by very few architects) means for architecture, including how it can be adapted by architects to stay relevant in the rapidly changing times.
RIBA President Jane Duncan has commented: “Architects need to play a vital role in shaping our urban future. RIBA’s International Week will connect with architects, no matter where or what size their practice is, to help them understand the potential impact and opportunities of global urbanisation. Under the umbrella of the New Urban Agenda, the week will provide explanation and inspiration, showing how the architecture profession can use its skills over the next two decades to make a valuable and long-lasting contribution to our future cities and society.”
The ‘Change in the City’ conference will form an integral part of a week of activities from 3 to 7 July at the RIBA and serve as a vehicle for discussion of current issues such as rapid urbanisation and migration, from architectural and sociological perspectives. The conference will be accompanied by a free exhibition, showcasing the participating architects’ work in relation to contemporary urban challenges.
In a quiet Queenstown neighbourhood, a family house by RT+Q Architects defies the disadvantages of its site and poses creative solutions to bring light and air into its interior spaces.
It is not an easy accomplishment to design a house that retains a façade of privacy on its public-facing exterior, yet feels bright, inviting and filled with natural light behind its public face. Yet, it is a spatial juxtaposition that appears as a natural solution within the aptly named House with an Atrium by RT+Q Architects, which has designed the residence to make the maximum use of its site and to respond to the owners’ programmatic requirements.
From the very beginning, the clients – a couple with three children – expressed their desire for a design that would allow plenty of daylight into the interiors of their house. A challenging task for a site situated on a North-South facing plot of land and sandwiched between two other residential properties. The configuration of the rectangular plot also hindered the design team at RT+Q from designing big openings at the East- and West-facing façades. As a solution, the team chose to design a house with a large, double-volume atrium that pierced the first and second levels of the residence, bringing in light and air without attracting too much heat from the afternoon sun.
“One feature of a lot of our buildings is that their front façades do not give too much away but, internally, the houses still feel very open,” says Rene Tan, Director of RT+Q Architects, highlighting the recurring theme within a lot of firm’s projects. Within the House with an Atrium, too, the titular central void is instrumental in creating a sense of openness and space from the inside.
With the courtyard and its two-storey high green wall, the configuration of the communal spaces around the inviting atrium became a logical choice. On the first floor, the design team positioned the gallery and the dining area directly across from each other, providing expansive, unobstructed views of activities taking place at the opposite, East and West ends of the house, while placing a spacious living room at the front of the house facing out to the vibrant green wall. On the second floor, the team designed a master suite overlooking the atrium’s courtyard and the spaces below, giving the clients a broad overview of the entire house from the comfort of their room. Other bedrooms were given more privacy by being set back from the atrium via elongated circulation spaces around the internal courtyard.
In a similar, strategic move, the RT+Q team incorporated open light courts and glass floors above selected areas of the basement to bring natural light below ground and make the lobby, tuition and entertainment areas, as well as various service spaces, a welcoming, well-lit continuation of the family spaces above. The choice of materials, like light grey concrete and marble throughout the basement and upper floors, further enabled the team to create a sense of space and openness within the 7,700 square foot home.
The team took special delight in designing the first-storey staircase, which was crafted in the same spirit of bringing lightness and various transparencies into the dwelling. “The owners were adventurous enough to go with a different kind of staircase,” says project lead Allan Tongol. “As a result, we went with perforated steel as a chosen material for the treads and the rises, making the whole structure, just like the house itself, look transparent and light.”
For the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, DP Architects merge traditional Chinese influences with a forward-thinking design vision to create a venue that fosters socio-cultural interactions.
As a new cultural landmark complementing the neighbouring Singapore Conference Hall in the central business district, the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) is a thoughtful amalgamation of functional and educational spaces with an expansive programme driven by innovation and anchored in culture and arts.
Designed by DP Architects with landscape consultant DP Green, the new building is the answer to a design brief that called for a forward-looking, and spatially and socially inclusive building that would create a welcoming destination for diverse groups of visitors.
The new venue walks a fine line between fitting in with its surrounding context and standing out. The SCCC is a one-stop destination for performances, exhibitions and cultural activities. To bring coherence to the composition of programmes held within, DP Architects gave the building a clean and contemporary look that also connects to the neighbourhood around it.
DP took inspiration from traditional Chinese three-tiered architectural compositions, and organised the SCCC in a functional stack for clarity of programmes, circulation and planning. Articulation of the architectural language reveals itself in three distinctly defined tiers: an elevated base that offers public spaces below, a solid body that contains all the main functions, and a glass crown for performances and cultural activities.
The DP team also drew inspiration from traditional Chinese landscape art to conceptualise the SCCC building and connect it to the setting around it. “The landscape is usually expressed with rough strokes (皴 in Chinese) to outline the coarse nature, while the building is depicted with more refined representations,” recalls Wang Ying, Associate Director, DP Architects. Likewise, in the SCCC, the juxtapositions exist between the box form and the multi-faceted podium, between the transparent top and the opaque bottom, and between the smooth crown and textured base. The juxtapositions create a balanced dialogue, echoing the artistic sensibilities found in Chinese landscape paintings.
As a result, the subtle implementation of Chinese architectural and artistic influences and the clean, contemporary expression of these ideas in the final design allows the SCCC to serve as a beacon of cultural identity and heritage, while remaining harmonious and inclusive of broader communities. According to Ying, “The mix of contemporary ideas in the facade treatment and traditional architectural convention in the planning embodies the spirit of respect. The architecture remains true to Chinese culture and heritage while becoming a conduit for interactions from various socio-cultural elements.”