Recently, the Danish architecture firm Friis & Moltke Architects won a competition to design the new addition to a series of nursing homes. When designing for people with dementia, the studio has a clear approach and dynamic recipe – with the keyword being ‘homeliness’.
‘Using the concept “City for Life”, we envisioned a project that would create a meaningful framework for the residents’ everyday life. We wanted to meet their individual needs in homely and safe surroundings based on the architecture of the “village mindset”,’ says Rasmus Riis.
Together with his Norwegian collaborators and Danish colleagues, architect Rasmus Riis, from Friis & Moltke Architects, has won a competition to build 40 nursing homes in Kristiansand, Norway. The nursing homes at ‘Strømme Senter’ are to house citizens with dementia who need 24-hour care.
‘We’ve approached this assignment with a thorough investigation into the architectural means to create homeliness and instantly recognisable surroundings. We are committed to evolve this architectural field and to create a sense of “home” through the adaptation of scale, use of natural materials and light. Even the exact location of each window has been chosen to achieve homeliness,’ says Rasmus Riis.
Rasmus Riis says that the key idea of the Strømme Senter nursing home project is a mixture of village feeling and nursing home.
‘The concept is based on creating a sense of “neighbourhood” where not only the buildings, but also the outdoor areas, have been designed to emphasise recognisable urban typologies and the feeling of “home”. Surrounded by protective buildings, the design makes it easy for residents to navigate as they move through streets and squares, with solitary buildings located in the central square as reference points,’ Rasmus Riis explains.
‘By removing the indoor hallway that you see in many institutions and replacing it with an open cityscape enclave with shared functions laid out as solitary buildings in the outdoor square, we create a more natural environment moving away from the institutionalised norm. This is how we succeed in creating a neighbourhood and home rather than an institution,’ says Rasmus Riis.
‘Hard to disguise an industrial-looking soap dispenser’
Friis & Moltke builds its solutions on experience, using the instruments and means that it knows will work. Looking at earlier solutions and continuously evaluating is a central part of its success. At the same time, there are certain requirements that the solutions must live up to and most of the time these clash with the architect’s goal of creating a homely atmosphere.
‘We’ve worked a lot with lighting, materials and scales that don’t say “hospital” or “institution”. If, for example, you put a table with 20 seats in the dining area of a nursing home, it won’t resemble anything from a private home. The same goes with lighting. The lighting needed for thorough cleaning is very bright – the type that no one would use in their own home. When adjusting lighting to the current use of a given space, you end up with a much more homely ambience,’ says Rasmus Riis.
In Denmark, there are 50,000 nursing homes. Over two-thirds of these have residents with some degree of dementia, but only about 6000 of them are suitable for dementia patients, Rasmus Riis says.
‘Lots of the nursing homes we visit are not capable of handling dementia patients. This is partly due to organisational structures, politics and economy, but we believe that architecture also has a significant impact when the goal is to aid dementia patients,’ Rasmus Riis concludes.