The Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home Inspires an Urban Regeneration
Article by Rosa di Gregorio
Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home, by HOSPER, in Amstelveen, Netherlands.
Sustainable development is becoming, in many places around the world, the way of re-thinking the city. To face issues like urban decay, brownfields and marginalization of some districts, instead of planning new buildings in non-urbanized areas. We see the implementation of the concepts of re-use, refurbishing and transformation of the current building heritage.
An experience like this has happened in the Dutch city of Amstelveen, by the HOSPER studio. HOSPER is a multidisciplinary design bureau for landscape architecture and urban development. In this example we find the presence of an obsolete Care Home that has bestowed on the whole neighborhood the nickname of ‘elderly island’, leaving this area completely marginalized and without any interaction with the rest of the city.
Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home
“The principal aim was to create an integrated design for an urban environment which stimulates interaction between different groups of people” said HOSPER.
The project consisted of the demolition of the old building to create a new space completely reshaped with new goals to achieve a variety of objectives such as: social cohesion, quality residences, healthy lifestyles, accessibility to structures and services, and a high quality of the surrounding environment and aesthetics.
The construction and success of this project has been made from the articulate process of integrated design that took place between several designers including landscape architects (HOSPER), architects and designers (THIJS ASSEMBERKS, RIJNBOUTT and OCTATUBE) and specialized designers in dementia-friendly gardens like Anke Wijnja (Bureau Fonkel) and Annie Pollock (of the Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling, Scotland).
…key to the whole project has been the interaction between the designers and the users…
Also key to the whole project has been the interaction between the designers and the users on the other side of the planning, bringing to light all the needs and expectations fulfilled through this operation.
The Project Experience of Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home
Two different stages defined the project development:
The first stage for this project was the “Zonnehuis Care Home”, a complex of elderly care facilities designed by Thijs Asselbergs where we find a very interesting design project: a canopy made up in steel and glass, designed by Octacube, which protects residents and staff members moving from one building to the other from the rain.
The second stage was the residential complex called “De Ontmoeting” designed by Rijnboutt.
These complex buildings create a few solid building blocks that define one side of the street front and on the other side, some semi-internal courts define the opposite street edge.
The project of the open space, designed by HOSPER, has the strategic role of promoting the desired social inclusion, they said: “The design for the outdoor space makes a strong connection between the two developments.”
The idea behind this space is to create a new public area, easy to access, in which to spend free time and make connections between the residents of the complex and the neighborhoods.
The Right Urban Context for Connecting the Space
The research and study about the footpaths and access to the buildings has been the main focus in planning the open space. Each entry on the ground level of the buildings has been connected to this open space in such a way to create multiple crossing gateways between the whole complex and the surrounding areas.
“It creates a drawing like a flower, departing from the centre of the open space up to spread into the internal courts of the buildings with a petal-like shape”.
The result is particular and unique: “Its expressive, spatially fluent design resembles in an abstract way “life and nature” in a built-up environment” said HOSPER. It creates a drawing like a flower, departing from the centre of the open space up to spread into the internal courts of the buildings with a petal-like shape.
The Design Choices at the Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home
HOSPER’s project could be defined like a Garden-Piazza. They have designed an open space without fences (except for the two dementia-friendly gardens), “where open, functional spaces and green oases of lush vegetation alternate,” they said. A really green, relaxed, and lively environment persists on the ground floor, where the roads for car traffic are positioned entirely on outside of the site. This allows the residents to move between the buildings of De Ontmoeting and the Zonnehuis Care Home in a relaxed manner.
In the plaza floor around the care complex HOSPER designed gardens with perennials and a greenhouse for activities with residents. There is also a large terrace for the restaurant of the Zonnehuis and as well as a playground for children.
In the residential area, the courtyards are designed with boxwood hedges and Juneberry trees (Amelanchier lamarckii) which creates the appeal of wavy leaves enclosing a flowery hill.
Central to this design is the connection path between the two areas, “Large ornamental grass surfaces featured with trees form the transition between De Ontmoeting and the Zonnehuis Care Home. They ensure that the boundary between the western part of the plaza and gardens with underground parking, and the eastern part without underground parking, is not visible in the terrain”, said HOSPER.
…textures in the pedestrian paths emphasizes the easy and light garden shape through colour variations…
The pedestrian path merges together the residential complex De Ontmoeting in the west, and the complex of the Zonnehuis Care Home in the east, with specific texture and pattern shown throughout the pavement. These textures in the pedestrian paths emphasizes the easy and light garden shape through colour variations.
Latest Developments at the Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home
Since 2014 when the project was done the whole city started gathering in this space. The aim to create an integrated design for an urban environment which stimulates interaction between different groups of people has been achieved.
This regenerated new public space, once just an ‘elderly island’, is a real urban landmark for Amstelveen today, which has been able to attract both people and economic activity.
Like this example, I think that the answer to the daily challenge for a contemporary city to improve its environment is found through urban regeneration.
Has this regeneration project inspired you to design better? Let us know in the comments below!
Full Project Credits For Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home:
Project Name: Amstelveen Zonnehuis Care Home
Location: Amstelveen, Netherlands
Date of Construction: 2009-2014
Size: 3 ha
Client: Stichting Zonnehuisgroep Amstelland, M.J. de Nijs projectontwikkeling
Designers: Ronald Bron, Frits van Loon, Elizabeth Keller, Petrouschka Thumann, Marike Oudijk
Partners: DG groep, Bureau Fonkel, Dementia Services Development Centre (University of Stirling Schotland), Rijnboutt, Architectuurcentrale Thijs Asselbergs, Octatube
- Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design by Michael Bayer
- Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature by Douglas Farrs
Article by Rosa di Gregorio
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