As a consequence of Hong Kong’s booming economy during the 1970s and 80s, it is expected that the number of middle-class people reaching retirement age will increase in the coming years. Existing hospital-like elderly care centers will be unable to satisfy their growing and unique demands. “Spiritual independence but physical dependence” is the crux of the design matter here. In this elderly housing and activity center, degrees of privacy, social access, and health-care service support become the major considerations. Diverse terraced gathering platforms (or stages), intimately connected to clustered living units, are arranged with the surrounding natural greenery and panoramic views of Hong Kong’s cityscape.
The living unit facilitates various interior layouts adaptable to the elders’ changing needs, health-care services and living habits. For instance, the same unit can either accommodate elders in wheelchairs capably going about their home activities or allow a place for an additional bed for a nurse or visiting relative. Identical units can also combineinto a large suite a couple or two elders looking after each another.
I was invited by my university to teach a three-week segment of an on-going design project taught by several people. My role, as I still believe, was to show the students the particular needs of the elderly who experience tremendous changes at this time in their lives. I encouraged them to explore architectural responses to such changes, from an independent and fully mobile lifestyle to one bound by a wheel chair; and from self-help and neighbor-aided strategies to intensive care by relatives or home helpers during certain in-bed periods. During these three weeks, most of the students were eager to apply open building strategies to maximize the efficiency and comforts of the life in otherwise tight spaces. When the studio continued after I left, it seemed most students abandoned these endeavors. Conventional, sometimes dull plans with a collection of fixed cells were the most common results. This speaks mostly about the way the overall course was conceived and administered.
Mr. Tony Ip was a happy exception. His design maintained overall consistency. However even he had to abandon an early idea for a flexible toilet/shower room. The original idea was to provide a choice. Either the shower-toilet could remain small to save space, or it could also be enlarged by opening a folding door when a wheelchair had to enter.
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