One of my goals as an architecturtal photographer is to understand the meaning of the built environment, how it connects to people, what it says about us and how can I communicate that through images. I felt that a senior home would be a facinating subject for this ongoing research; it is a modern interpretation of humanity's need to care for the elders. It is a place where people go to live thier last days and to share that experience with others at the same stage in life.
After 8 years of planning, overcoming challenges from regulating agencies, working with the city of Los Altos and facing nieghbors who place signs reading "it's too big!" in the yards across the street - The Terraces at Los Altos finally opened their doors. Yesterday I had an opportunity to get an inside look at this senior living community during an AIA sponsored tour.
This type of building has many unique architectural features. In the memory support facility, I learned that the bathroom must be visible from the bed, so a resident can easily access it and not forget where it is. Our tour leader described one of the regulatory difficulties which is the ADA requires windows must not be openable in memory support, but the fire department requires that windows must be openable throughout the building. The solution was to have one openable but alarmed window in each room and other windows be openable to four inches. In the skilled nursing area I was introduced to an elegant solution to the problem of bathing for mobility impaired residents: there is a harness for lifting a person out of bed and a track on the ceiling for transporting them to the toilet or bathtub. All these standards approach the building design as a solution to the problems of aging.
The craftsman style design is intended to makes the facility feel more like a home than it does an institution. Common dining and activity areas provide a space where residents can form a sense of community, even family. Bright ideas like storage cubbies in the common area allow residents to make displays of personal objects. With the strict regulations on nearly every aspect of construction, The Terraces Does a fine job of incorporating homey elements into a complex project. The residents are able to stay active and involved in their own way.