ThomsonAdsett has designed the new Golden Homes – comprising 350 independent living apartments and 90 residential aged care beds located in the Beijing suburb of Shuangqiao. Located near the Fourth Ring Road East, Shuangqiao is an industrial area rapidly transitioning into a mid-socioeconomic residential area, not unlike many outside of central Beijing.
Chinese culture places a strong emphasis on family. Most elderly people are looked after by their children within the same household. However, the seniors living concept is becoming increasingly acceptable and popular. Golden Homes had to showcase the merits of living in a seniors community and make a compelling case for the elderly to relocate from their current homes. The showcasing of a vibrant community was the primary design principle for Golden Homes Shuangqiao.
Government funding for aged care in China is relatively low compared to Australia. Affordability becomes a major issue which prejudices aged care design towards staffing and operational efficiency as opposed to resident wellbeing. The challenge is to develop a design for an emerging economy, that will remain relevant and operable when the industry becomes more mature. For example, twin rooms and four-bed wards need to be convertible into single rooms with individual ensuites at a later date.
The community centre that sits at the core of Golden Homes is a vast, visually-continuous space conceived as a theatre with ‘stage sets’ themed on Chinese festivals. Those sets may be changed to reflect numerous festivals and festivities which are reminiscent of communal life in residents’ own communities or in their younger days. Such festivities encourage the integration of activities between the residents and the younger generation through sharing of life stories and traditional activities which may include craft, decorating, music and food.
Each side of the community centre has unobstructed views into courtyards to facilitate wayfinding. The landscape design of each courtyard is unique, thus allowing those from the inside looking out to be cognitive of their location. Logical pathways have been incorporated into the landscape design to facilitate foot traffic throughout the site. Each courtyard may be viewed from the community centre and is overlooked by apartments and corridors above. Obscure corners were carefully avoided. These features allow for the passive surveillance of residents which enhances safety and security without the need for extensive electronic surveillance.
The critical thinking invested in designing Golden Homes‘ community spaces can benefit many retirement villages in Australia. The evidence of its success is useful to all operators in Australia, proving that a well-designed community centre is fundamental to the success of a retirement village.