At AGi architects we have won the competition for the new residence and day center for elderly people in Torrecilla en Cameros, La Rioja. In this project we have worked intensively to implement the specific needs of this program and of the site where it will be located.
We believe that architecture is a major agent in creating social, psychological and physical well-being for its inhabitants. Therefore, we have designed a building focused on people, a building centered on their sense of belonging, autonomy and well-being. These are the seven key strategies that have allowed us to achieve these goals.
1. Designing an architecture that minimizes its impact on the landscape
The site chosen for the new building is located on a south-facing slope. Therefore, the topography has been a determining factor in the project, leading to the fragmentation of the building in order to reduce the overall scale. A simple connection between the different areas of the program ends up shaping a organization in comb of the whole.
In addition, we have chosen materials in line with the context, to integrate the building visually. Natural stone, green roofs, and gable-roofed pavilions connect with the local tradition.
In this way we favor people’s emotional relationship with the building, which is respectful of both the natural context and cultural memory.
2. Designing an architecture that brings nature into the building
It is not only a matter of integrating the building into the landscape, but also of introducing the landscape into the building, to improve the lives of those who live there. For this reason, a series of gardens are placed between the different pavilions, becoming the central places of the community’s daily life. All of them will be landscaped with plants native to the Sierra Cebollera.
3. Fostering social wellbeing through interaction spaces
Space conditions the way we live and can provide us with opportunities to live better. Surprise, chance and casualness improve the quality of life, and for this reason, we have designed spaces that make possible the existence of fortuitous interactions between people.
Scale is a determining factor, as well as the gradation between the private and the public, so that interactions can occur and persist over time. We have taken this into account in the design, projecting spaces that generate different levels of intimacy, such as galleries and small nooks and crannies that extend the transit areas at some points. Thus, the project allows a close relationship between the residents.
4. Designing an architecture that promotes psychological well-being by increasing the residents’ power of choice
Elderly people place great value on preserving their independence and autonomy. Although many need support, having control over some aspects of where and how they live, and when and by whom they are cared for, is significant in their sense of self-determination and thus improves their well-being.
In the design of this project we have considered each room as a small independent dwelling. Within it, the privacy of each resident is guaranteed. The balconies have been separated from each other by enclosures and the dwellings maintain a certain flexibility in their layout, allowing for variations such as the movement of furniture. The spaces are large and open and ensure that residents can bring their own furniture.
5. Using materials to promote psychological wellbeing
The rootedness of memory and the sense of belonging are factors that favor well-being through the connection with personal identity. We propose a project that includes elements of the architecture of the place, familiar to the residents, most of whom will be locals. Stone foundations or gable roofs provide the sensation of living in harmony with the place.
In the interior, we want to build a warm and pleasant residence, so wood is chosen. This material has a low environmental impact and very good thermal performance, as well as a look far from clinical aesthetics. The project manages to be, in this way, homely and sustainable.
6. Favoring physical well-being through greater accessibility
Of course this is a key factor in any architectural design, and all the more so here: spaces must be accessible to everyone. They must also be easy to recognize and allow simple orientation within them, and this is how we have conceived these spaces. We have insisted on designing all the gardens of the complex at the same level as the interior spaces that surround them, to facilitate the transition between the two and to make the use of the gardens part of the center’s everyday life.
7. Using passive conditioning resources in architecture
We have oriented the building to take maximum advantage of the sun’s rays. Facing south are the residents’ rooms and those spaces where people stay for long periods of time, thus not only benefiting the building’s energy efficiency but also making the day-to-day experience healthier and more pleasant.
On top of the building’s volumetry, we have designed passive elements for solar control, such as cantilevers that protect south-facing openings from excessive radiation. The vegetation cover of the flat roof not only reduces the visual impact of the building, but also provides additional insulation in summer, which again will allow energy savings.