A new Accommodation Facility for Alzheimer’s in Paris
A Unique Program in Paris : an Experimental Alzheimer Nursing Home
After having delivered the first social housing building with a thermal solar panel façade in 2010 for Siemp on a listed site, the architects Philippon - Kalt have once again demonstrated their taste for experimentation in renovating Paris’ rue Blanche with an accommodation facility for elderly dependents (Etablissement d’hébergement pour les personnes âgées dépendantes EHPAD). In an environment rich in protected buildings, the project creates a very original architectural signature in the heart of an urban block thanks to its Ductal® concrete double skin, an echo of the adjacent protected open space (EVP) garden. This building offers a response that goes beyond the exterior architecture and technical experimentation. It focuses on creating a positive social and medical environment for elderly people with Alzheimer’s. This arrangement is unique in Paris and its development sheds new light on the management of residents with this disease in the context of a major renovation.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND ISSUES
ORIGINS OF THE PROJECT
Located at 49 rue Blanche in the 9th district of Paris, until the 1960s it was a halfway house and rehabilitation center for blind war veterans before becoming a center for ablebodied and disabled veterans until 2005, the building was pre-empted by the City of Paris in an anticipated land use planning application. The company Aximo, a subsidiary of Paris Habitat, is the current tenant. Completed by the contractual architect for the National Office of Veterans’ Affairs (ONAC) LP SEZILLE, the building facing the courtyardn (eastern façade) was inaugurated in 1936 by the French President Albert Lebrun. Despite the adequacy of the social facilities in line with the building’s original purpose, the development of an accommodation facility for dependent elderly (EHPAD) in this enclosed building seemed inappropriate for reasons of safety and capacity.
ORGANIZATION : A THERAPEUTIC ARCHITECTURE
While accommodation facilities for dependent elderly (EHPAD) generally allocate 10% of beds to an Alzheimer’s unit, these premises are exclusively dedicated to people with the disease. Delivering this their fourth EHPAD project, the Philippon - Kalt agency has completely redesigned the existing building to accommodate this specific program.
A CONCEPT DEVELOPED BY DOCTORS
The Parentèles concept was developed by Georges and Jean Louis Patat in the 1980s and is based on “an environment, a project about life and communication specifically tailored to people with Alzheimer’s”. The primary objective of Parentèles is to focus on the residents’ wellbeing and sensory development, foster positive emotions, avoid behavioral problems and slow down the progression of the disease whilst at the same time respecting the principals of humanity and dignity.
The architecture created by the Philippon - Kalt team offers these very sensitive elderly people, who can become disoriented and stressed in confined spaces, a welcoming, spacious, and luminous living environment.
FREE MOVEMENT OF RESIDENTS INSIDE THE PREMISES
The organization into apartments and fluidity of vertical and horizontal circulation promotes
the free movement of residents. To facilitate navigation, this freedom of movement is combined with floors each identifiable by a specific color and a different morphology in every communal living room.
A TERRACE COVERED WITH PLANTS
On the first floor, spaces for care and wellbeing and a large, primarily glass lounge offer the greatest access to the garden. This protected open space is a legacy of the former Tivoli Gardens, which were places of
entertainment in the 18th and 19th centuries, and is an essential asset for the quality of life of the residents and their families. An ambulatory terrace follows an ellipse in the garden: the fragrant and aromatic perennial plants awaken the olfactory and visual memory of disorientated people.
LIVING UNITS ORGANIZED INTO APARTMENTS
On each floor the six apartments are organized around a light-filled common living space and cross from one façade to the other.
This friendly and family-oriented central space combines the functions of a lounge and dining room. It features a glass office where residents can re-heat meals or light snacks themselves. Ten rooms are distributed on both sides.
STIMULATING AND LUMINOUS ATMOSPHERE
COLOR HARMONY, VISUAL CUES AND ART THERAPY
The colors are bright and colorful on each floor to stimulate the residents’ cognitive memories and avoid apathy.
On the first floor, more neutral tones in the interior spaces depict leaves changing color with the seasons. An intergenerational place of exchange and shared leisure that for the most part overlooks the garden welcomes the residents and their families.
A photo, poster or painting that is a known reference to a period in the residents’ life is in the communal living rooms to allow them to identify each floor. These visuals aid in the residents’ spatio-temporal navigation by stimulating their memory. They are chosen along with the medical team.
OPENING ONTO THE OUTSIDE
Large bay windows in the rooms overlooking the garden open out to let the most sunlight in, an essential characteristic for the wellbeing of disoriented people.
SOBRIETY OF THE FURNITURE
The lines of the furniture contribute towards the creation of links with the simplicity of the daily life.
On this basis, it has been chosen for its ease-of-use and seamless integration in such a specific place.
AN EXPRESSIVE AND ORIGINAL FAÇADE THAT TRANSCENDS THE CONSTRAINTS
TECHNICAL TERRACES AS A PRETEXT FOR THE OPEN WORK DOUBLE SKIN
The need for fire access to each room from the outside forced the creation of passages on the western façade overlooking the garden. The choice of a lattice allows full integration of these technical terraces into the extension’s composition of volumes by offering an added value: this double skin system maintains the sweeping views from the bedrooms whilst at the same
time providing protection from the sun. Additionally, this openwork second skin transforms the technical constraints associated with the program and the site into a visual and major asset of everyday use. Sleek strips of Ductal® make up a lattice that stands out against the green siding of the first skin at irregular intervals. They blur the functional frame of the openings to the rooms and their assembly acts as an adjustable screen. Made of white concrete, they harmonize with the pale tone and the mineral texture of the adjacent buildings’ dressed stone facades. In the background, the development of the façade in the form of large folds allows the constraints of the prospects to be integrated whilst still maintaining a homogenous whole.
RESONANCE WITH THE GARDEN
The openwork Ductal® strips are arranged in an irregular fashion to echo the architectural vocabulary inspired by the plant lines of the garden, as if a mirror of its environment. This visual link between the two offers valuable continuity for disoriented elderly people. Intensified by the shadows they cast, they offer a perception of the building that changes depending on the time of day. Made out of light concrete, they harmonize the stone shade with the mineral texture of the façades made out of stones the size of the adjoining buildings. This filter enhances the play of shadows and lights that is in harmony with those of the trees.
DESIGN CONCEPT AND BUILDING PROCESS
TECHNICAL REDEVELOPMENT OF THE BUILDING
The redevelopment of the western façade is made from existing floorboards.
The supporting structures of the building have been laid bare, the frames bonded with new floorboards, and the extension closed by an insulating envelope.
The basement draws on the vaulted cellars of the two former houses, the foundations of which had already been conserved in 1935.
A BARELY ACCESSIBLE SITE
The project management team had to double their inventiveness so that the construction site could proceed under the best conditions on this difficult to access site nestled in the heart of an urban block.