Schools with Design & Architecture Programs for Senior Living

Time is running out to enter your community to the 2016 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards. Nominations are now open for the 2016 competition, but hurry—all entries must be submitted by November 11, 2016.

This highly-anticipated awards competition returns for the fourth year to recognize cutting-edge design, excellence and quality in senior living for 2016. This year, SHN has expanded the awards to include two new categories, Student Exhibition and International Community Design.

Calling all students! SHN is calling for entries for our initial Architecture & Design Award in the inaugural Student Project category that recognizes cutting-edge design from students around the globe. We are encouraging submissions from colleges, universities and educational institutions with undergraduate or graduate programs focused on architecture and interior design that have projects geared toward design work in senior living. Please note: The Student Exhibition Submission Fee Has Been Waived for 2016 entries.

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We recently spoke with a few of our judges on attracting students to the niche of senior housing, and here’s what they had to say.

SHN: What can architecture and design programs at universities do to attract more students to the specific niche of senior housing?

Jeffrey Anderzhon, Senior Planning & Design Architect at Eppstein Uhen Architects: One of the most important things schools of architecture can do is eliminate the myth that senior living design is, by nature, old fashioned and not worth exploring within contemporary design pedagogy. The architectural problem of designing an environment which is a “home” as well as a workplace is somewhat unique in an architectural curriculum (and in the “real” world) and should be celebrated as an issue that stretches the analytical and creative initiatives of students. Once one takes an extended and in-depth look at the designs promulgated by leaders in senior living design, one can readily see that this is a very rewarding discipline that doesn’t have to be locked into neoclassical or neo-colonial design genres.

Dan Cinelli, Principal & Executive Director at Perkins Eastman: We need talent that see this as a significant design opportunity and a social responsibility that design matters and makes a difference…good design empowers all! Emphasize lifelong learning, invite seniors to teach, allow seniors access to classes in music, theater, art with students to encourage cross-generational learning. Need to have design problems and focus on user experience design. They can encourage it by way of student competitions, as well as invite seasoned senior living architects to make cogent presentations about the challenges, opportunities, and social need for this type of housing.     

David Dillard, Principal at D2 Architecture: Aside from inviting the best practitioners of senior architecture to make their case around the country one lecture at a time, I don’t know.  I think the burden lies first on the firms to make the larger moves, and schools will follow.  For what it’s worth, we have been very fortunate in the past two years recruiting four college grads, each from a highly regarded school of architecture (Texas, OU, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M).  For a variety of reasons, architecture for seniors is (finally) looking more progressive than ever, architecturally and aesthetically.  More vertical, less red brick (see above).  We also recognize that the twenty-somethings are distinguished (on average) by their insatiable appetite to learn, an appetite that we satisfy in two ways: with a radical and aggressive culture of training and education, and with our Sleepover Project® – an empathetic research experiment that sends young designers out to live a day (literally 24 hours) in the life of a 90-year-old, disabilities and all.  This generation’s culture of learning and of kindness toward the less capable is palpable and is the essential ingredient in our own recipe that links town and gown.

John Cronin, Principal at AG Architecture: It is the impression of students that senior living doesn’t present exciting design opportunities. They want to be able to explore more fantastical project work while they are able to in school. I think this presents a great opportunity for the industry to generate interest and new ideas. If programs can find experienced instructors to guide students, the classroom setting provides a great laboratory to explore new, “fantastical” ideas in senior living. Depending on other programs across campus, it also provides an opportunity for collaborative learning where architecture, design and nursing or other health care and social work disciplines can work together to explore future care models.

Manny Gonzalez, Principal at KTGY Architecture: The simplest thing a University can do to get more students interested in senior housing is to educated them on how diverse that niche is, from affordable senior apartments to luxury high rises and from single family cottages to fantastic vacation homes. There is also the service enriched side from independent living to memory care and skilled nursing. And with 10,000 people a day turning 65 from now until 2030 it’s a very exciting space to be in for architects.

Dean Maddalena, President of StudioSIX5: Expose students to this project type in design studio, especially in more senior-level classes.


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