Two Texas A&M design studios came together this spring to experiment with an innovative concept in housing that integrates senior citizens in a village with young families, single parents and college students in what studio director Susan Rodiek characterized as a transformative approach to mixed-use development.
Second-year students from Rodiek’s environmental design studio collaborated on the project to produce designs and master plans for a 23-acre mixed-use village in Japan with fifth-year students under the direction of landscape architecture faculty Chanam Lee and Kenneth Hurst.
The village, envisioned by Kenshi Nishino, a Japanese geriatric neurosurgeon and horticultural therapist who worked with the students, is to be located adjacent to a hospital that provides housing and outpatient care for older adults.
Nishino envisions a place where seniors with a variety of care needs and their nearby youthful neighbors all enjoy the benefits of a multigenerational, pedestrian-friendly development that includes a grocery store, restaurants, small cafes, farmer’s markets, outdoor stages, art and music studios, walking trails and a variety of indoor and outdoor multi-use spaces.
The concept has for years been a topic at geriatric and architectural conferences but almost never realized in practice, said Rodiek, associate professor of architecture.
“I think this kind of housing is exactly what seniors are going to want in the future,” she said. “Researchers have found that senior citizens prefer to have contact with people in younger generations. They don’t necessarily want to reside in the same house or building with people who aren’t family, but they don’t want to be isolated from them either.”
Multigenerational living, she said, directly addresses the isolation seniors experience when living, for instance, in a nursing home or surrounded by people the same age with similar health conditions.
The concept also offers potential advantages for younger neighbors, such as help with child care, odd jobs for college students, or access to the experience and wisdom of the nearby seniors.
During the semester, 39 undergraduate designers, worked in six teams composed of two environmental design students and four or five landscape architecture students.
“Multidisciplinary projects are always challenging, but the students coordinated their design efforts well,” said Rodiek.
The environmental design students designed low-rise, residential and recreational buildings consistent with a small-town, village setting, while the landscape architecture students designed walkways, pools, pergolas and additional outdoor features, arranging those amenities around the building clusters within their master plans.
The project called for housing and multi-use facilities supporting 230 senior citizens and 50 young couples, single parents and/or students.
During the studio, Nishino spent a week at Texas A&M, where he participated in a midpoint review and advised students on their projects.