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Recognice that the city is a product of social forces is not enought, it’s needed to study the society itself.
VIGO is a big scattered city with a lot of problems:
- Lack of endowments.
- Lack of green areas.
- Lack of public spaces.
In one hand this city have a large ammount of natural networks but almost all of them are degraded and abandoned and on the other hand sufferst too the biggest social problem of the occidental countries: the aging of the population.
This social problems breakes the social cohesion of the society. All the social problems have repercusions on the city, on the territory and therefore on the natural networks.
So we can say that heal the society is heal the city.
This aging of the population brings new deseases and the Alzheimer is the most important one. Nowadays is the 4th. health problem on the occidental countries.
Is a really big social problem because not only affects to the patient, affects too their entire enviroment.
As an architect we have different tools to try recover this social/territorial/enviromental cohesion.
Try to give a solution to the social problems (being the aging of the population and the Alzheimer itself one of the most important).
Try to solve the enviromental coohesion. (Being the river lagares in Vigo a big oportunity to achieve that).
This “sick” city have important natural networks like the river Lagares; that now is working as a barrier but could work as a “artery” that articulates the entire city.
Offers a lot of empty spaces, potencials that i will try to identify with the analysis.
Acording to the collected data and the analysis I did an strategy based on four key points:
- SPORTS AND MOBILITY
Plus the posibility of the creation of new endowments that are needed located along the river, to attach this natural network to the city. Being the Alzheimer center one of them.
This natural network; the river Lagares, is the best place for this illnes people, not only because will be well conected to the city and the metropolitan área. Because the next reasons too:
- SCALE: Is less agressive, closest to the human scale and easy to understand for these people.
- CONTROL: Allow the control of small groups, wich ones should be less of 20/30 illnes persons.
- CONTACT WITH THE SOCIETY: This intermediate scale allows to the people that suffers Alzheimer feel close to the society but at the same time far of some disvantages of the cities. This point is very important because these illnes people needs to feel that they are still “usefull” and important to the rest of the society.
So after all the analysis and first conclusions about the city, the illnes and the society my next question was:
¿What have to be an Alzheimer’s center?
I’ve tried to respond this question on my thesis report and I’ve analysed different projects throught Europe too. I’ve founded the same problem in all of them:
The centers are all focused on the dwelling and traeted like it was a hospital or an eldery center, forgetting the most important things:
- Their needs of social interactions with the exterior.
- Their need of feel usefull to the rest of the society.
- This model is not responding to the actual needs of the patient and their families.
Actually in Spain the 80% of the people that have Alzheimer stay at their homes, so their needs and their family needs are not met. So my the next questions that reach my mind was:
¿How we could live our lives in the way we want to if we were sick?
¿How do you wanna live?
And for me, the answers were:
- Stay at home as long as posible. And if you cant you will want to feel like you were at your home.
- Stay in touch with nature and your enviroment.
- Feel usefull to the society and feel usefull doing things.
- And the enviroment where you will be is respectfull with your disabilities.
Then the project changed and is not only a building now; is a place to live, to feel usefull, important; a place in touch with nature and the city too.
Will be a place of meeting between the society, the illnes and the city.
After all the analysis, strategies and the thesis report i’ve selected a plot.
A semiabandoned village located in a key position, integrated on the landscape well conected to the metropolitan area and Vigo. To forms part later of the great network of future Alzheimer’s centers.
I’ve designed the village dividing it on 3 different phases. Each phase is for each “phase” of the desease that have different needs. Preexisting walls at the plots are used as control elements and to divide each phase. Those phases are far or close to the main building depending on the abilities of the illnes. This small scale is easier to understand for them and for the control needs.
There are another base points to the project:
- The recupertion of abandoned buildings that will be used as control elements and for common uses.
- Recuperation of the previous use of the soil. Thos orchards will be usefull as therapy to the illnes and to recover the previous territory configuration.
- The recuperation of the river woods, a natural enviroment important for the ecosystem; is a tool to aproach the illnes to the nature and to get close the city to the surrounding areas.
The dwelling should be customizable, and responds to the needs of the patient. Being able to go with their own furniture etc; and is modular so is easy to change, remove or change it. This dwelling area is acording to the Spanish habitat law; depending of 2, 4 or 6 users. With that, I’ve calculated the green areas needed, the common uses and the maximum number of people for each phase and for the total.
Now the building arises as a link between the dwelling phases, the village, the river and the city.
Is on a strategic plot “growing” from the preexisting walls to integrate it. The projected building is divided on two kind of uses:
- Public areas. Where are the public information, familiar atention, the “sport area” and the administration of the center.
- Private areas. Where are the therapys for the illnes.
The building is adapted to the unniveness to increase the feeling of being part of the landscape. Creating “traditional” paths along the plot and the building that are pleasant and easy to understand for the patients. The use of different textures, the light, the forms and the space are thinked to help awake memory reminiscenses. Using concepts of the traditional architecture that are “close” to the human scale and the privacy concept.
Have loadbearing walls with small windows that are closed or opened o the views depending on the needs of privacy or the landscape views.
The use of patios bring light to the interior and make the building more private and creates spaces of convivence. Creating small spaces easy to understand, closest to the human scale. I try with the project that they will feel they are on their second home, a place that helps them to get their memories back.
In conclusion Vigo is a big scattered city that needs to repair the brakes on the territory, society and the enviromental networks. And helping our friends, our family and all the people that suffers the problem of the Alzheimer we will make a better city.
As an architects we have this kind of social responsability, and using the enviromental networks and facing those social problems we can made a friendly and healthy city.