Houses For Elderly People In Alcácer Do Sal
By Pol Martin
In Alcácer do Sal, in the Portuguese Alentejo region, the Lisbon based architects Aires Mateus have created houses – in plural – for elderly people as a new residence facility for the already existing Santa Casa de la Misericordia health center.
Just recently, this project was one of only five finalists for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, the Mies van der Rohe Award 2013.
The need of private spaces
A starting point for the architects was to define the issue between individual and community space in this kind of buildings. Evaluating the program of an elderly home, the architects wanted to work not only on the social spaces, but also design high quality private rooms for the individual. The architects Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus tell:
|It is a program, somewhere in between a hotel and a hospital, that seeks to comprehend and reinterpret the combination social/private, answering to the needs of a social life, and at the same time of solitude.|
Making the units readable
Considering the private spaces not only like rooms but as independent houses, volumes or units, they seem to literally combine on top of each other along with their empty terrace spaces into a unique building.
The final form or project composition responds almost literally to the architects’ statement on the importance of the individual spaces.
Private rooms with private terraces
Each room or “house” opens to its own private terrace. This feature allows residents to enjoy the open air in privacy, while at the same time providingan effective solar protection from direct southern sunlight. The light gets reflected on the white walls before getting into the rooms. The final form is a clear combination of the void/built sequence of every house:
|Independents unities aggregate into a unique body, whose design is expressive and clear,|
Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus state.
Enclosing the site
The combination results in a long swinging and turning building that runs along the South East limit of the Santa Casa de la Misericordia site, similar to a perforated wall that encapsulates and defines new open spaces.
|The building, designed path, is a wall that naturally rises from the topography: it limits and defines the open space, organizing the entire plot,|
the architects say.
They have not only developed the building but the open spaces and gardens, managing the connections to the existing facilities and buildings of the complex.
Using the topographical difference that the site has, the long building seems to rise from the highest level growing in height up to three floors on the lowest level of the plot. Along its pathway the indoor/outdoor relationship is boosted (up) with constant openings and direct connections.
On the ground floor, all the recreational and common areas are distributed: Reception, social rooms, dinning, kitchens and technical rooms like locker rooms, etc. Upper floors are primarily used for all the private bedrooms, individual or double, as well as some social interaction areas.
White basic materials
The predominance of white responds to the ultimate purpose of reassuring the lively southern light inside the building meanwhile avoiding the direct sun. The details reveal the building’s standard construction reality – in a very positive sense.
Standard concrete structure, brick interior walls, plastered and painted in white, inverted flat vegetal roofs, double-glazing windows with blackout curtains, white marble or vinyl floors.
And that’s another success. Even after the apparent complexity of such contemporary effect of independent boxes on top of each other creating a building, it is solved still with very basic materials.
Architects on the rise
It is not the first time Aires Mateus e Associados gets selected or becomes finalists for the Mies van der Rohe Award alongside several other awards and prizes. In 2010 they won the Spanish-Portuguese FAD prize for “temporary” architectures and the company has become an architectural reference in Europe with projects widely published all over the world.