Improving design has to be sustainable and style has to have substance. That was certainly the message during Camira Fabrics collaboration with Dutch based DVA (Dementia Village Advisors), during the company’s first Healthcare Roadshow developed exclusively for UK based healthcare designers. Held at Camira’s showroom in Clerkenwell, London, the event featured speaker Michael Bol, architect from DVA, the practice made famous for their pioneering Dementia Village, De Hogeweyk, Amsterdam.
De Hogeweyk broke the mould with a care home designed like a series of small houses in a village on one level, each with different designs and activities aligned to the previous ‘lifestyles’ of the residents within. Residents are free to walk around the village, in and out of the various buildings. There’s also a fully operating supermarket, restaurant and theatre, all within the secure compound.Presenting a completely new concept to designers, Michael took centre stage to discuss small scale, as opposed to large scale thinking, and designing from a social and individual approach when it comes to dementia and nursing home design.
Michael Bol says;
“Look at day to day life and create conditions for the residents so that they are challenged by incentives to remain active in daily, precious life. Our architecture aims to connect with the residents’ wishes. Their way of living is our starting point. The required features of the interior, the public spaces and the functions that are necessary from the outside are all designed to meet their needs.”
Medical solutions instead of social solutions are the norm in the UK but within De Hogeweyk the nursing home bands residents with shared interests and backgrounds so they can live together in a lifestyle-group. The design, decoration and surroundings of the home are then tailored to that specific lifestyle. Residents can move freely from their home via a front door to the outside within a protected environment. They can go outside, walk down a boulevard, play sport, eat out, buy food from a supermarket, and visit a pub – all within the protected perimeter of De Hogeweyk.
Special attention is required for people with dementia but the thinking behind De Hogeweyk does not treat dementia as an illness with individuals requiring institutionalised care, but rather enabling care that focuses on human attention.We spoke to delegate Jacqui Smith, director of specialist care home interior design company HomeSmiths about the De Hogeweyk concept and how this thinking relates to the future of design within care. She said;
“I always try and educate my clients about the benefits of good design. Vinyl and plain decor isn’t the solution but I can understand the need. It comes down to cost and time and just getting the job of caring done. However good design with well chosen finishes and an intelligent lighting scheme, can improve health and wellbeing by enabling individuals to be independent. Unfortunately too many care home environments are unwittingly enabling isolation and physical decline by not addressing these benefits.”
“It seems designers in care can inform and guide but more often than not have little freedom to affect such massive change especially in a business such as care where budgets are tight, regulations equally so, and the status quo often preferred. Manufacturing fabrics for comfort, longevity, and the practical demands facing the care industry is our focus. Our Halcyon Collection of waterproof fabrics are so advanced that aside from being waterproof, stain repellent and flame retardant, they also offer protection from infection with germ proof anti-microbial properties, all the while still looking appealing and appearing normal.
It’s clear there is much to learn from De Hogeweyk and its design principles. Improving design can be done but doesn’t have to be as radical as you think. Ultimately its about designing a complete picture where people feel connected and safe in comfortable surroundings where they can enjoy the precious life they were used to. The life they still want to lead.”