Retirement and aged care living shouldn’t feel institutional.
It shouldn’t feel ageing-specific at all, according to Jesse Linardi, design director at DKO Architecture, who was instrumental in developing a new, state-of-the-art communal space for Lifestyle Communities retirement villages.
“The fundamentals of the building are irrelevant of age. We do a lot of public buildings and these days, accessibility is assumed… it’s not added on,” he tells Aged Care News.
“We wanted to make sure that the building was in no way generic. Our approach was formed around placing a building within a community that wasn’t age specific and could become a desired destination in itself, with an offering for everyone.
“The building’s positioning in an aged community wasn’t reflective of dependent living, but instead as a celebration of independent living.”
The building in question is the Wollert Lifestyle Clubhouse, a 1600sqm shared facility at the centre of the Wollert lifestyle community, a 40-minute drive north of Melbourne’s CBD.
While residents of the retirement village each have their own self-contained apartment, the goal of the clubhouse is to foster “togetherness” and a strong community spirit.
“The formal reference of the building takes inspiration from the boomerang shape itself,” Linardi says.
“We drew from a narrative around circles, campfires and community to form an abstract expression of togetherness – as a place to return to and connect with others, share stories and develop and deepen connections.
“The returning nature of the boomerang perfectly aligned with our intended narrative.”
DKO Architecture has developed a number of Lifestyles Clubhouses, each with their own signature that responds to and reflects the location.
Linardi says that while his team were initially commissioned to develop all of the Victorian Lifestyle Communities clubhouses with the same rough design, the Wollert Clubhouse was born out of a desire to evolve their practice further.
“Their traditional model was the same clubhouse with every site, and so they came to us with two other sites, Mt Duneed and Wollert … and I said, ‘guys, we can’t keep the same design in every site’.
“Every site’s different and we also wanted to evolve the idea in terms of ‘how can we make the building better?’, not just do the same thing time and time again, and just learning from what we’ve done on the first three.
“All the buildings have been an evolution of what we’ve learnt.”
As a consequence, Linardi began to experiment with new, better uses of the space, and the inclusion of local, Australian design elements and building materials.
“We don’t shape the master plan, but basically get a piece of area that’s designated for us to design the clubhouse on, then we then arrange the building to relate to the community.
“[As we developed the latest Wollert Clubhouse], we looked at being self-critical about the design and how we could improve it.
“Within the building itself, we start to change things like, for example, the outside spaces being a little bit more sheltered or covered, and then we basically look at local things like materiality, for example, bricks that are made locally or some sort of reference to a local colour or landscape.”
Linardi is pleased to say that demand for innovative aged care architecture is now beginning to grow.
“I’m actually getting people from other businesses that I hadn’t had any prior relationship with reaching out and actually wanting to engage.
“I think it’s seen it as class leading, even to people that aren’t doing lifestyle or ageing communities.”
Linardi hopes that more aged-care based companies will begin to reach out and engage as enthusiastically as Lifestyle Communities.
“They’re one of the few companies that that I’ve worked with that have been so engaged; they have a belief that the architecture can add value to the community.
“In terms of cost, the cost of doing these is significantly more than the cost of doing the previous buildings, but the value returned to residents is priceless.”