Many of our clients hire us to design their retirement home. Accommodating the possibility of being less mobile is relatively easy and doesn’t deter from the aesthetics of the house. There are three major areas of consideration for aging in place; life-safety, fall prevention, and convenience.
The number one life safety issue is providing an accessible exit from each floor. In the Lowcountry, many houses are raised off the ground to be out of the flood plain. Many architects create an accessible entry by either installing a residential elevator or stacking elevator sized closets for a future elevator. In houses less than five feet off the ground, we often include a ramp to the back or side door. A custom designed ramp will fit in with the overall architecture of the house.
Accessible doors are 36 inches wide and will preferably have flush thresholds but a maximum threshold of ½ inch exterior and ¼ inch interior. Hallways should be at least 42 inches wide. Every room should have an open space of 5 feet by 5 feet for wheelchair maneuverability.
The building code requires that bedrooms have an egress window in case of fires. A house designed for aging in place will have three foot wide exterior doors from the bedrooms opening onto an area of refuge, which might be directly on grade or a balcony large enough for a wheelchair.
Floor material, adequate lighting, and grab bars are the keys to help prevent falls. Floors should be smooth, firm, and slip resistant. Carpet should be low pile (less than ½ inch) with a firm pad. There should be plenty of natural light as well as both overall room lighting and task lighting. Particular care should be given to lighting stairwells, showers, entry doors, and exterior walkways. Stairwells should have switches at both the top and bottom and hallways at both ends.
Stairwells should have handrails on both sides of the stairs. In bathrooms, install or provide blocking for future installation of grab bars in the shower, bathtub, and around the toilet. Likewise, you might want to install blocking in the hallways for future grab bars.
For greater convenience you might consider one floor living, low maintenance materials, and a 5-foot accessible aisle in the carport or garage for wheelchair access. Lever door handles and faucets are easier for arthritic hands to open. Finally, the construction of a separate guest house or two master suites can accommodate an aging relative or a live in nurse.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
This is my presentation from Pecha Kucha last night. The format is 20 slides and 20 seconds on each slide. The Pantheon, Rome, Itlay Circa 126 AD
These are images of buildings and spaces that have inspired, delighted and amazed me. The Pantheon is over 2000 years old and still holds the record for the largest unreinforced concrete dome. The oculus provides natural light and ventilation. Those Romans were pretty smart.
Chapel of St. Ignatius, Steven Holl, Seattle University, 1997
Holl describes his building as “a stone box, containing seven bottles of light.” The desired ethereal effect is awe inspiring. Halos of soft light are punctuated by other worldly intense colors. The mesmerizing light creates a calm meditative atmosphere.
Museum of Modern Art Addition, Takahashi Yoshio, New York City, 2006
The great hall creates a performance piece among the gallery visitors who wave to each other through the filtered shims between the floors. The transparencies and the layering of light provide the perfect stage. It changes the museum visit from a passive to an active experience
Prada Soho Store, Rem Koolhaas, New York City, 2001
When both of your parents are architects; family vacations always revolve around buildings that must be seen. When I told my youngest daughter, Jessica, about this presentation, she asked “Are you going to include the Prada Store”. Jess…..this one is for you.
Villa Rotunda, Andrea Palladio, Vicenza, Italy, begun 1566
Palladian perfection. It is difficult to choose a favorite villa by Palladio because they all meet Vitruvius’s condition for a great building ..firmness, commodity and delight. I am envious of a client who spent the evening dining and dancing here during a Venice film festival.
Chicago Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor, Chicago, 2006
Stainless steel polished so smoothly you want to rub you face against the bean but you can’t because it acts as a huge magnet drawing in the populace. All inhibitions are lost as people prance and preen in the fun house mirror.
Thorncrown Chapel, Fay Jones, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, 1980
The client commissioned ‘a little chapel to provide wayfarers a place for relaxation.” With glass, wood, and stone, Jones made a sacred structure that celebrates nature and man’s connection to it. The simple plan and form create a harmoniously unified masterpiece.
BCE Place Galleria, Santiago Calatrava, Toronto, Canada, 1992
I heard Calatrava speak on his design process. Most of his projects start with sketches of the human body which inspire his structural systems. He sketches, sculpts and paints to further explore the forms. This is the only finished building I’ve seen so I expect new favorites in my future.
Brion Vega Cemetery, Carlo Scarpa, San Vito d'Altivole, Italy, 1972
Stone drum steps each with a different tone mark your progression through the garden towards the tombs. The sound is hauntingly beautiful. We created a redneck version at our house; sheet metal on a steel frame. It sounds like someone running up a slide when you approach our door. Not quite the same!
National Gallery of Canada, Moshe Safdie, Ottawa, Canada, 1988
There is an area on the second floor with a glass floor looking down on a fountain below. From the first floor if feels like you are under the sea looking up at people treading water. The Alexander Calder film on his circus puppet show was even better than the building
Casa Mila, Antonio Gaudi, Barcelona, Spain, 1905-10
Life should be fun..often we take ourselves too seriously; Gaudi makes us stop and recognize the absurd, the humorous, and the fun in our day to day lives by his architecture. Knowing that these sentinels were protecting my apartment building would make me smile all day long.
High Museum of Art, Addition, Renzo Piano, Atlanta, Georgia, 2005
Zenithal light from 1000 north facing circular skylights flood the galleries with soft natural light allowing you to focus on the exhibits. The refined detailing highlights Piano’s sensitive balance between art and function. Three new buildings form a courtyard with the existing Meier building
High Museum of Art, Richard Meier, Atlanta, Georgia, 1983
Meier said “I think white is the most wonderful color of all, because within it one can find every color of the rainbow.” A 10 year old asked me “did they mean for it to be this white?” I rode an elevator with Meier and told him the story. He didn’t think it was funny.
Delano Hotel, Philippe Stark, South Beach Miami, Florida, 1995
A small blue door in a sculpted hedge beckons you to enter the unknown. Immediately you are falling though gossamer curtains down the rabbit hole and land in a modern day decadent wonderland. Plan on arriving at night for the most magical experience.
Disney Concert Hall, Frank Gehry, Los Angeles, California, 2003
Hearing the Los Angeles Symphony in this space was the most sensuous experience that I have had. As the orchestra played the ceiling slowly changed colors. Superlatives crowd my brain remembering the visual and audile impact.
Art institute of Chicago, Shepley, Ruten and Coolidge, Chicago, 1893
The courtyard café is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. It provides a quiet respite for rejuvenating the soul after soaking in the great art in the institute’s galleries. The fountain creates the desired separation in an intimate space.
Church of San Lorenzo, Filippo Brunelleschi, Florence, Italy, 1421-1440
April 1980, we arrive in Florence after 2 months in Northern Europe. We climbed to the top in the narrow space between the inner and outer domes and sat outside the cupola for hours basking in the sun.
Old Sheldon Church (Prince William Parish) Beaufort County, South Carolina, 1757
Majestic ruins of the first temple form building in America. Woodmason, wrote in 1765, “Prince William’s Church is the second best Church in the Province and by many esteem’d a more beautiful building than St. Philips. It is far more elegant than St. Michaels
Dogtrot, North Alabama, 1895
My great grandmother, Essie Curl Shackleford and her sister Ezzie Pearl standing in front of the family home in North Alabama. The open center hall creates a Bernoulli effect of increased winds through the hall. Southern vernacular architecture is based on sustainable design principles and they still apply.