Institutional Model for the Elderly
The issue of the ageing population is a major challenge in Hungary (and the rest of Europe) that has no real solution yet. This issue is becoming more serious, causing several other problems. It is such a complex and deep matter, which cannot be solved by any profession, person or institution by its own and it is affected by economic decisions that are not part of the architect profession. However, this doesn’t mean that architecture cannot generate some kind of intervention that can help people find a solution eventually.
The institutional accommodation of elderly people is not very common, but it has major economic and social potential. The general view is still a very traditional assumption of a large family ‘model’ with close connections. In such case, the traditional model is suitable as the younger generation can help the elder members of the family and this also fits the pension system better. The general trend moves to another direction though. Young people study for a longer period of time in another city (or even country) and are more separated from the older generations than ever before. Priority would be home care, but it would require an unmeasurable capacity, which cannot be generated due to the model mentioned above.
The solution to the problem can be institutional allocation, but it’s still unusual or unpopular, and generally expensive and low-quality. It requires a high-standard environment that cannot or can hardly be created in the current system. It cannot be generated by force, but a suitable environment can trigger a demand, a positive example could lead to a mechanism where the public perception would dissolve the old negative views and eventually help to solve the original issue. The variety and options for nursing homes, which target people in central locations not only on the outskirts, should grow. There is a need for central institutions, as many elders, widowed or left alone in the city centre, wouldn't prefer to leave their familiar environment. They would need help locally.
The objective of these institutions, apart from their location, would be the reintegration of the elder people to urban society, which is also important for sustainability. The basic assumption for this would be self-care promotion, by which they can create productive and interactive situations with younger generations. This condition is called the active elder age, which means that the elderly person is self-sufficient and only a pensioner because of age but not physical or mental state. It would not only improve their own health but would also have a positive impact on society and the economy.
On one hand, in order to achieve this, systematic medical assistance is required that follows through the ageing process from the earlier stages, and cure minor health problems. As a result, the healthy, active state would be sustained for a longer period of time. On the other hand, the four basic programs (work, study, sleep, nursing) should be guaranteed. The individuals could freely choose between these programs, based on their specific preferences. Social connection maintenance (or even creation) is another objective. Often, in elder age relationships between friends and family reduce and it is hard to create new ones, because of the lack of platforms and possibilities. An obstacle can be the physical limitation, hardly accessible locations (habitant discrimination), or it can be an intellectual barrier when the individual can’t get into a “place” due to the lack of informatical knowledge (medial discrimination). These problems can be solved by care and improvement.
These people can stay in the circulation of the city and society by creating a suitable environment for them, but this also requires a complex overall strategy and the involvement of other participants. Even more can be solved if the functions are coordinated by local resources, where they can live together with mutual interests, in a kind of symbiosis.
The site is located on the border of the city center. It is a major intersection of the area between the Budapest Nyugati Station and market in Lehel Square. Moving away from the market in Lehel Square, the building density becomes lower and we arrive at a calmer, more silent milieu, which isn't far from downtown. So the elders who were planning to live in the central areas could stay in their usual atmosphere. It is mostly homes and offices that are located in this liveable area, but also some institutions are based here.
The market can serve as a meeting point. Also, 'Mesterkert' kindergarten is here designed by Archikon studio, that could provide an opportunity for workshops between the elders and kids. Kassai Park is also here, which is the only organised green park in the area and Honved Sports' Centre is just around the corner, where elder people can also enjoy the recently refurbished swimming pool. Honved Medical Centre can provide medical support in emergency cases. Another large development is also proposed here, called Nyugati Park.
Due to all these institutions, a very wide variety of opportunities is accessible for the locals and for the people in the nursing homes. There are several examples abroad for theses relations. Sometimes nursing homes provide free rooms for the young people for their services or give discounts for elderly people if they help (eg. in the restaurant) and in some occasions accommodate homeless people. However, in Hungary, there is no willingness for this now, but it could be a real objective of the future. In this situation it would be reckless to base the whole function on the cooperation, so slow, staggered system evolving is realistic. In my plans, the formation of the space is suitable for the cooperation among various institutions as they are physically close to each other but not collocated. The selection of the site was based on the location of the potential partner institutions. Later on, other sites could be built in for other organisations based on the experiences and they could cooperate with each other.
The site is a 2600 m2 corner lot located in 17 Tüzér Street, enclosed by two office buildings and a warehouse. The regulations in the district specifies a semi-public zone, which should be left open, on the Tüzér Street side of the building. This zone connects the street with the park and it generates a ‘gate’ form for the building. The site is located in a special transition zone where the building heights grow towards the main streets in a strict, unbroken row, while it reduces and loosens towards the park. It creates some kind of concentric wave around the site. The two elevations of the building reacts to this, as the street facing facade is strictly closed while the patio facing facade loosens up and moves as the sun shines the building.
The rational planning of the building was defined by the main ossature. The reinforced concrete frame structure grid defines the base of the building from the basement level, which projects through the whole volume. The layout of the two wings remains identical above the basement, but the division creates different blocks in terms of function and lighting. These blocks contain functions and fill the grid and the interior spaces. They open up from each other due to their sizes. These separations create a central hallway and on the park side of the building, where the blocks move separately, public spaces are shaped. This movement helps the corridors be more liveable and exciting and also serve as a guideline for the elders to navigate in the spaces. By the completion of this playful gesture, I formed a few social spaces as I left “empty” blocks on the facade. These spaces generate social situations that help the communication among the residents.
The ‘blocks’ of the residential units are convertible and easily transformed during operations. There are two units and these units can be transformed in two ways. The unit consists of two rooms that can be used separately or as a large flat. A living + bedroom flat can be created by placing a door in the partition wall if the preference of the user requires it. This unit can be potentially separated into two more rooms if required. Mobility and adaptability are important for long-term operation as it can serve the current and future needs.
The architectural program covers the aggregated functions and spaces. The support of the active elder life and providing the opportunity to work, rest and study in an accessible, nursed environment. Also, the Club and its functions provide a scene to set up missing human interaction. Every resident could find an activity suited to their conditions in a supportive environment fitted for their needs. Internal functions (such as grocery store, workshops, computer room, library, medical room, physiotherapy, gym, balcony, garden) are complemented by external locations with partner institutions (swimming pool-Honved, hospital-honked, shopping-Lehel market, events-kindergarten).