Over the course of two semesters, graduate Texas A&M architecture and landscape architecture students collaborated with a noted geriatric neurosurgeon to develop concepts for an innovative Japanese retirement village designed to enhance the health of elderly residents by integrating them into dynamic communities with young families and college students.
Known as “multigenerational living,” the practice directly addresses the isolation seniors experience in a nursing home or surrounded by people the same age with similar health conditions, said Susan Rodiek, an associate professor of architecture, who co-led the studio project with Chanam Lee, professor of landscape architecture.
“It’s a new type of community, where older people can connect with younger people and experience nature, art, gardening, music, wonderful food, fun, and friendships,” said Rodiek.
The six participating Texas A&M students, three from each discipline, traveled to Kitakyushu, Japan in fall 2017 to meet neurosurgeon and horticultural therapist Kenshi Nishino, who is spearheading the multigenerational, pedestrian friendly mixed-used retirement village project, which will ultimately include retail and residential space, restaurants, and a variety of indoor and outdoor multiuse areas.
Students toured the project site, located within walking distance of a hospital headed by Nishino, and met with several construction professionals to learn about site-specific conditions.
The students worked in three teams, each with an architecture and landscape architecture student, to develop solutions that reflect the site’s climate and Japanese culture, said Rodiek.
Manasa Hegde and Hardik Jariwala sought to connect residents with nature by designing a central fountain and series of small ponds surrounded by native plants that run the length of a central promenade leading to a first-floor supermarket, restaurants, coffee shops and food kiosks.
The promenade’s commercial spaces are topped by second-floor housing with views of nature from large picture windows and easy-to-access living and bathing areas.
Students Danna Ruan and Weishi Wang envisioned a central promenade with four gathering areas, each with a unique feature, such as a bamboo grove, a convenience store or coffee shop, encouraging residents of different age groups to engage together in a variety of outdoor activities.
They also designed a continuous second-floor balcony, providing residents with an outdoor walking track and observation area overlooking the promenade.
The team of Hao Huang and Liang Zhao included a traditional two-story Japanese teahouse at the top of a hill, providing views of a nearby mountain and the surrounding community. Their design also incorporated a traditional Japanese terraced garden.
The grad students’ designs built on master plans and conceptual designs previously created by environmental design students and undergraduate landscape architecture students in spring 2017 studios also led by Rodiek and Lee.
The project will continue in fall 2018, when students in architecture and landscape architecture studios again travel to Japan to collaborate with Nishino in the design of additional project amenities.