ID V Real Life Project that Bridges the Generation Gap
When David Cooper contacted Design Institute of San Diego, he was looking for ideas to spruce up his 12-bed Assisted Living Facility in Carlsbad to improve the quality of life for the elderly residents. ID V students were up to the challenge. In teams of three, students measured the existing building and interviewed the owners, the staff, and the 90-year-old residents.
"One of the most important and helpful factors in designing for the elderly was actually speaking with them about what it is they would like to see changed or added," one student recounted. "Aging can be a scary process. Comfort, dignity and connection are most important."
The students also did a literature review of scientific studies on aging and had expert guest speakers including designer and member of the DISD Faculty Anne Kellett, principal at A Kinder Space, who specializes in accessible and universal design. They learned how vision, hearing, mobility and the ability to feel temperature dull over time and how this calls for safety features to be built into the environment. "I learned how a wet room [in place of a traditional bathroom] can make things easy for caretakers and residents and how you have to be mindful of seat depth and height for persons who are not easily able to get in and out of seated positions," explained another student. "The project helped me think of all the things I now know are of extreme importance like [designing to accommodate] wheelchairs, space to transfer in and out of bed...things I could not begin to understand before."
Many students addressed the concept of wayfinding, highlighting the entry to the facility and bedroom doors with contrasting colors and architectural detail. Some groups focused on the lighting, textures and artwork. Others directed their attention to planning social areas with supportive furnishings for recreational or visitor activities and private spaces for sleeping and spiritual reflection, offering innovative details for improving the daily routines of bathing, sleeping and eating. Most of the groups explored ways to extend the indoor living areas to the outside with a sunroom, atrium or walking path with pergolas and fragrant plantings.
After nine weeks of intense brainstorming, space planning, and rendering, the six groups presented their ideas to David, the owner, his wife, Ann Cooper, and the facility's caretaker, Elsa. David's first comment said it all: "Are you sure you're students? You seem like professionals!"
The panel agreed all groups had done a great job, but they chose "The Garden on the Beach" concept by Tamara Glidewell, Jill Fosnot and Stefanie Wensceslao as "the closest to our taste and the feeling we wanted for the space." They were especially attracted to the series of colorful hand-drawn sketches which illustrated the building from the street ("curb appeal"), the approach a person would experience walking from the parking to the front door under an arched, planted trellis with custom signage, and the first glimpse of the interior living space, articulated with wood beams, floral patterned carpet tile and new lighting to create a homey atmosphere.
"The joy for me is seeing the students get a chance to improve spaces in their own community, with a real budget and real constraints," said instructor Lily Robinson, "and to see them succeed in exceeding the client's expectations." The biggest compliment came a week later when the client hired a contractor to implement the students' ideas.
In addition, David has funded the fabrication and installation of custom interactive memory boards proposed by Jessica Richenbacher, Rachelle Marentette and Ana Paola Lomeli. The students now have two weeks to work with the residents, along with their photos and memorabilia, to complete the project.
What did the students learn? Here are just a few of their comments:
"When you have a real project and you see who you are designing for and how they will be affected by the new design, the feeling of fulfillment is so much deeper. It's something a grade can't touch."
"This project made me realize the importance of the client interview. During our presentations the client was particularly drawn to the aspects of our design that directly reflected his needs and desires for the space. To be able to sell your design to the client, it is pertinent to clearly state the ways you are addressing their concerns and personal aesthetic."
"I am very thankful for the opportunity as I learned a great deal about designing for assisted living spaces, as well as the entire design process."
"I also see how important it is to provide design solutions beyond the client's initial ideas because you can really blow a client away with a creative idea they never would have thought of themselves."
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