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40 PROJECT REPORT: RETIREMENT LIVING & CARE HOMES


ELEVATED DETAILS Completing a cluster of buildings of different heights to blend with neighbours, the facades offer complex brickwork detailing that plays with light and shadow


“Not having done retirement living 1,000 times, we could look at things with fresh eyes”


Miranda Maclaren, Morris+Company


with highly detailed brick facades, but “following the same rules of craft.” As such, the facade was constructed largely of intricate brickwork with deep reveals and jutting elements that add depth and interest, such as precast concrete string courses around the edges (which also deal with practical issues like waterproofing), or splayed lintels.


PROJECT FACTFILE


Client: Pegasus Life Architect: Morris+Company Construction manager: RISE Contractor (interior D&B): ISG Structural engineer: Elliott Wood Environmental engineer: Max Fordham


Landscape consultant: Camlins Interiors: Woods Bagot Interiors executive architect: Architecture PLB Building control: Assent Building Control


The architects were particularly focused on the ground and top levels of the buildings being legible. One way in which this was achieved was 15 mm splayed brick at the base, and another is in the taller buildings, which widen as they ascend. In addition, the brick work changes to tumbled bricks at higher levels, the mortar changes shade, and the lintels have a different, slightly grey colour. “One of my favourite aspects of the facades was how different we made each one – we asked the bricklayers to bash the bricks around, and get more or less slurry on each so they would sparkle, while not looking brand new,” explains MacLaren. “While they were sceptical at the start, they’re extremely proud of the way it looks now – and so are we.”


Interior spaces Moving inside, while another team created much of the internal finishings, Morris+Company were responsible for the “principles of the interior spaces,” and their being closely tailored to the users’ needs. MacLaren explains: “We were more involved with the spatial quality and


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relationships. We focused on generosity and wayfinding, the importance of being safe and secure at the same time as always being able to see where you’re going, as well as always having a relationship to an outdoor space so you can get fresh air when you need to.” Designing these spaces however proved one of the major challenges in this project, according to MacLaren, as “there just weren’t any examples to visit in this country.” “We reviewed buildings that had been designed elsewhere, alongside comments and papers on such projects, but I think Pegasus were pushing us to follow our intuition and take the typology in new directions,” she says. As such, following their instinct on the exterior designs, inside these blocks the architects went to great lengths to individualise each interior space, from subtle details like carpet changes around the entrance, to recessed doors that residents can make their own. Instead of “long institutional corridors,” they provided spaces that felt like home for residents – “Their space, their block, their floor; it’s quite unique in that way.” She continues: “It was extremely important to us that we found the perfect balance between the building feeling like a home, not a hotel, but while also having that sense of pride and community in some of it being publicly accessible.”


Proof of concept


MacLaren of Morris+Company hopes that the Belle Vue will inspire future designers of targeted retirement housing in the UK, and be seen as an exemplar in its field, inspiring future UK projects to adopt lessons from across the globe. She says: “Regardless of whether it's more or less expensive, the spatial understandings and relationships transcend its cost; allowing older residents to increase their happiness and sense of community, as well as safety and security.” MacLaren tells me she is “extremely


proud” of the way the residents have settled in and used the building, and that this “truly achieves proof of concept.” At the time of interview, Pegasus Life had only been recently able to market the project and bring new residents in. However, the architect had just toured the project with the client, and reported that the residents were delighted. She concludes: “If others are only to look, Belle Vue is a great indicator of the benefit of this type of accommodation.” 


ADF SEPTEMBER 2021


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