Elderly home in Borsodnádasd
Town and plan
The town of Borsodnádasd lies in the western part of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County (the most underprivileged part of Hungary), around 15 km far from the city of Ózd, which has the greatest industrial legacy of the soviet era in Hungary. Borsodnádasd is a small town with its 3300 residents and it has several clear marks of a dual urban structure: it has two centers/cores, one of them is the typical hungarian „village” based on agricultural traditions and the other was organized around the metal sheet factory founded at 1984. The factory and its residential quarters stretches along a vale, about 4-5 kilometres far from the “town”.
The operation of the factory had a great impact on the economic and cultural status and progression of the town. The coexistence of the Hungarian peasant class of the traditional town quarter and the workers with diverse nationality (Slovakian, German, Austrian, Prussian) living at the industrial quarter resulted in a remarkable cultural life and a fast growing urban structure. Due to the progressive thinking of the factory directorate, the industrial quarter and the “colonies” for the labourers had a fully self-contained infrastructure of a town (educational institutes, medical services, cultural functions such as the clubhouses or library, sport clubs, churches, even railway lines and ponds.)
In 1992, the factory closed its gate after 150 years of operation. As the majority of the engineers and skilled workers had to migrate, the “colonies” and their building’s condition and value deteriorated, in the past two decades even fundamental public services were moved out from this part of the town.
The town part called “Lemezgyár” eventually turning into a “slum area”: the residential buildings have low comfort standards and bad conditions, there is high rate of unemployment, underprivileged or destitute inhabitants. The locally elected municipalities have hard work in reversing these process, searching for developments that could make the isolated and straggling town part to catch up. Their (and also our) priority was, that the investments should aim the existing, unused buildings of the town, converting them into valuable buildings serving well their new functions.
The elderly care system in Hungary tends toward the building of large-scale facilities with more and more residents, which are promptly recoverable, but definitely not person-centered. Even the nursing home with lower human standards use to have become “oversubscribed”. There is already a well-working small nursing home at Borsodnádasd, so the concept of the local council is to create an elderly home with a moderate number of rooms, but with clearly humane care and higher comfort standards, with the conversion of an abandoned public building.
Location and the past of the house
The house about to be converted is located at Petőfi Square, which has been the cultural and economic centre of the industrial quarter for decades. It faces the main entrance and head building of the whole factory yard, being only a torso at this very moment, as most of the industrial buildings has been demolished. Also it was surrounded by other century-old buildings such as the former grocery storehouse (afterwards Officer’s Casino, now abandoned), the so-called Reader’s Club (library and community house). In 1984, the communist directorate made ordered to demolish the Reader’s Club and have a new house built on the site with the same functions in it (library and community centre). It has the typical structural solutions and details of the era, just as the architectural details and mass resembles the 80’s mass-produced, cuboid public buildings with its simple forms.
Although its supporting structures are in immaculate state, the barely 30 years-old building has been unused for ages. The building site is bounded by a sinuous road, the roadway elevates several meters between the two sides of the site. The building was literally cut into the steep terrain, there is a retaining wall less than in a meter distance from the back elevation of the building, and there is only a few meters of forecourt in front of the building, which is also separated with a retaining wall from the level of the street.
Conversion - function and scheme
The conversion of the building reacts and reinterprets the original mass differentiations of the house. The former two story high event hall is divided into two single stories with a new concrete slab to provide apartments for 36 residents and the service areas of the housing units. A middle corridor scheme was inevitable, however, natural light can illuminate the corridors through the sidelights of the doors and through the new skylights of the roof slab. The rooms cannot have ideal proportions because of the existing perimeters, but aims to proceed every aspects of accessibility and all objectives of inclusive design.
The single story mass involves the community spaces of the house (library, parlour, dining room) as well a new kitchen and the administration areas. The flat roof of this part of the house gets new functions, to be more than only a space delimiting structure: a new lightsome extension provides indoor community space for the upper level, also it divides the now walkable roof into several multi-purpose outdoor areas, such as an outdoor “gym” for physiological therapy, transitional spaces with benches and chess/board game tables, and most of all, we designed barrier-free containers for herb and vegetable plantations, to ensure a “roof garden” where the residents can be part of activities which can help them to keep their mental alertness.
Mass and elevation
The original, cuboid form of the building stays uninterrupted, as the frame-like extensions communicate distinctly different and get into clear contrast with the original, simple mass covered with white plaster. The extension on the upper level behaves just as the cantilever marking the entrance, both of them have the function of shading for every glazed openings facing south at the same time. With the extension of the secondary staircase, these extensions (with different structural system) uses the same façade cladding panels as the mark of their additional behaviour.
The new openings of the apartment units have a varied rhythm to keep distance from the original, strict and unattractive proportions, then it gets more sophisticated with the “second voice” of the sliding shading panels, which has the same finishing colour and material as the extensions.
The building is situated on the lower corner of the site. Although the rest of the site has a dense natural environment, according to the terrain of the site, the building was isolated from the forest. We integrated a new “bridge” between the building and the higher part of the site, as the roof garden are in the same height as the surrounding terrain. The bridge continues in an accessible walkway that finds its way between the trees and slopes. To blur the boundaries of the environment and the roof, the parapet wall of the roof do not have railings or sheet metal edge, it works as a bench all around its perimeter.