Copenhagen studio NORD Architects drew on research into the built environment’s impact on people with dementia for the Alzheimer’s Village in Dax, the first project of its kind in France.
Awarded via a competition in 2016, the studio’s design references the urban layout of Dax’s old town to create a sense of familiarity for its residents, with a communal “market square” wrapped by concrete arcades at its centre.
“When designing for people with dementia, where the loss of cognitive abilities is one of the main aspects of living with the condition, we design with the aim to help them in the best possible way,” NORD Architects partner Morten Rask Gregersen told Dezeen.
“The design of the physical environment therefore relies on an idea of readability or recognition where simple design ideas and elements support the patient as their state and abilities change over time,” he continued.
The Alzheimer’s Village, which the studio said is “the first care home in France for people with dementia,” is organised into four clusters.
Each of these houses around 30 residents and has its own dedicated facilities and courtyard.
To the north, the main square is surrounded by familiar functions, including a grocer, hairdresser and restaurant, which are intended to bring a sense of “recognisable day-to-day-life” to the village.
Modelled on the typology of a “bastide” – a type of fortified town that can be found nearby – concrete arches surround the village’s main square, creating more shaded, private areas around the fountains and seating areas at its centre.
Throughout the village, timber plank cladding, plaster and pitched, clay-tiled roofs were also intended to evoke forms and textures that would be familiar to residents.
“The idea of creating an environment that the users can recognise led us to a contextual analysis of the nearby villages, where we experienced the arch motive is recurring motive in the old town squares in a typology called a ‘bastide’,” Gregersen said.
“The choice of materials can underline the idea of the recognisable environment, so we again looked at the local materials that the future residents would be used to in their own homes,” he added.
Establishing a closeness to nature was also key to NORD Architects’ design, with a small lake and trees in the middle of the site surrounded by a looping path and gardens with fragrant flowers to have a “stimulating effect”.
The Alzheimer’s Village in Dax was recently shortlisted in the health and wellbeing project category of Dezeen Awards 2023.
Previous healthcare projects by NORD Architects include a hospice for palliative care in Copenhagen, which features golden facades and curved cutouts that create quiet courtyards.
The photography is courtesy of NORD Architects.