Frames for Meaningful Daily Life
The new Puistonmäki eldercare home in Hämeenlinna promotes the creation of communality with various kinds of shared facilities. For instance, there is a log sauna in the yard.
Along with the growing number of senior citizens, sheltered housing has become an increasingly important building type. How was the concept of the Puistonmäki eldercare home developed, architect Sampsa Palva?
The housing concept was made to be user-oriented. On the basis of user studies and workshops, we defined various kinds of resident profiles that helped us to understand how different kinds of residents and their needs should be considered during the various phases of the project.
Conventionally, sheltered housing has fulfilled people’s basic needs, i.e. physiological and safety needs. However, we wanted to study which solutions could be used for satisfying needs that are located higher up in the hierarchy of needs, such as social cohesion, esteem, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. This is why we wanted to support and encourage communality and bring the feelings of being important and meaningful to the residents’ daily life.
The Puistonmäki eldercare home is located in a sparsely built suburb. What kind of points of references did it provide for the design work?
The building is located on a visible spot by an access route to the residential area of Puistonmäki. As the building is quite tall, it is a recognisable landmark in the area. On both sides of the building, there are park areas, making the views verdant and spacious, which affected the design and orientation of the flats.
How did you take into account the residents’ needs for privacy and communality in your design work?
During the different phases of the design work, we focused on how to observe the various social needs of the residents. The lobbies located on the floors are a key link between one’s own flat and the shared facilities downstairs. The purpose of the lobby is to make it easier for residents to leave their flats and go and have a cup of coffee and read a newspaper in the lobby. This way, they will also have a chance to get to know their neighbours on the same floor. From this semi-private space, it is much easier to go to the more public space downstairs.
Our aim was also to create sheltered places where one can spend time alone or in a smaller group. For instance, there is a lounge next to the restaurant and the entrance hall. It is an atmospheric place for reading a book or watching the television by the fireplace.
There are a large number of small flats in the building. What kind of principles were followed in their design?
Most of the dwellings are fairly small one-room flats that have different areas for different activities, such as cooking, meals, spending time, sleeping and washing. They have been located in different parts of the flat, which allows for short walks in the flat. The same principle has been followed in larger two-room flats. Each flat has a large glazed balcony that also brings nature and plants close to those whose functional capacity has decreased.
The eldercare home is surrounded by a carefully designed yard area that boasts a sauna built of logs. What kind of significance does the yard have for the concept?
The yard and its buildings are very central elements. The premise was to create various kinds of zones and a walking route that connects the zones. An active yard encourages residents to participate in urban gardening, and doing things together promotes communality. In the garden, the residents can enjoy sensory experiences, such as scents and the sound of flowing water.
The wood-burning sauna in the yard offers a place for relaxation, and a shared sauna evening once a week can function as an important social event. The heating of the sauna and the chopping of firewood can be rehabilitating and meaningful activities for residents.
How were the objectives of sustainable construction taken into account in the design work?
We aimed to observe the objectives of sustainable construction by designing multi-functional spaces and long-lasting solutions. We have used sustainable and renewable materials, such as wood, when it has been functionally sensible and allowed by regulations and the construction budget.
The materials play a significant role in the building. On which criteria were they selected?
The budget set relatively tight limits, especially for the facade materials. As regards the ground floor, the brickwork facades and timber-clad canopies create a sense of softness and material for a pedestrian who walks outside on the ground level. In other respects, the facades are chiefly white concrete, which was largely selected on the terms of production. In the interior, we sought to come up with a warm and homely atmosphere by using wood surfaces, as well as calming and atmospheric wall colours. In sheltered housing, durability and easy cleaning are important aspects, but the materials have also been selected in a way that they could be experienced with as many senses as possible; they could be touched, they would smell good and they would acquire a beautiful patina.
The exterior architecture of the building is based on cubic masses and grid-like facades. What was the motive for the use of such architectural means?
The surroundings set only a few preconditions for the massing of the building and structuring of the facades, which is why they are largely based on the interior solutions. With the deviating and larger fenestration and pedestal-like treatment, we wanted to convey the more public character of the ground floor and introduce a smaller scale next to the building. The masses of various heights and the varying coordinates divide the building into smaller parts and offer more varied views for the interior. Some of the structuring of the facades are the results of structural solutions; for instance, the vertical profile of the balcony facades was created by the columns supporting the balconies.
MILJA LUNDAHL, Head of the Puistonmäki Eldercare Home, what kind of objectives were set for the design of the building?
The objective was to come up with a home-like, safe and communal home for senior citizens for the rest of their lives, where the daily encounters of the residents would be natural and not actively imposed on them. Residents are provided with the facilities for the creation of communality, but they may decide by themselves how they want to utilise this opportunity. For many residents, intensified sheltered housing is an excessive form of care services, which is why there will be an increasing need for these kinds of less intensive services in the future.
How have the objectives been reached, and how is the residents’ daily life going along in the new building?
The building has been in operation for such a short time that it is too early to estimate the creation of communality. The mentality of Finns requires some time for it, but we have already seen small signs of communality.
Currently, there are 30 senior citizens living in the building. It has responded well to the residents’ needs, as the facilities are pleasant and practical. The restaurant gathers people for small parties and larger theme days. There are often people chatting in the fireplace room, and the sauna is heated a few times a week. The sauna in the yard has been a splendid experience for all, with its soft heat. When bathing in the sauna, residents reminisce about their childhoods and how they bathed in the sauna in the old days.
Puistonmäki has delighted its visitors and aroused discussion amongst them. The beautiful exterior makes those passing by interested in the building, and on a summer’s day, the good smells from the restaurant reach the road.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the use of the building?
The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the opening of the house and the arrival of the residents. We haven’t advertised much and it hasn’t been possible to organise large events. The building is spacious, making it possible to keep the safe distances. The restaurant has been built sensibly, and thanks to the glazed terrace, the customers can split up into different spaces. The yard and the canopies provide a safe place for the meeting of the residents and their relatives. ↙