Conventional wisdom on seniorhousing holds that it should be hidden from view. This eight-acre project in the heart of Silicon Valley does quite the opposite. The 193-unit residential continuum-of-care complex is one of the Taube Koret Campus’ most prominent features.
“Normally the higher levels of senior care are relegated to the back of the bus because people who are able-bodied don’t want to be reminded of their future,” observes architect Rob Steinberg. “We put the memory care and assisted living in very public parts of the campus on purpose. We wanted people to be able to sit in their apartments and still feel connected.”
Connected they are—and not just to other seniors. Bringing new life to a remediated brownfield site (once the world headquarters for Sun Microsystems), the multigenerational campus is anchored by a community center offering educational and cultural events, along with fitness facilities, a theater, a preschool, and arts and crafts studios. In keeping with this rich social tapestry, each building’s design reflects its unique purpose. The fitness facility’s exposed skeletal beams and columns suggest a body in motion, while the preschool uses a modular vocabulary with exposed fasteners, “to express the idea of building character in our kids,” Steinberg says. The senior buildings’ shingle cladding “suggests wisdom and experience, and even wrinkles.”
But buildings aren’t the only contributors to this project’s profound sense of place. Equally important are the pedestrian walkways and plazas between them, each of which enjoys its own character, proportion, and function. Not quite square, their odd shapes are an outgrowth of the fact that one street in the plan is about seven degrees off grid.
“We took half the buildings and cocked them about 7 ½ degrees, while leaving the rest of the buildings at 90 degrees,” Steinberg says. “That minor adjustment created outdoor spaces that were orthogonal rather than rectilinear, [and] intersections that are friendly, with lots of nooks and crannies filled with benches and oversized planters to facilitate connections. We wanted this to be a place where unprogrammed social interaction was as important as the programmed.” And where older generations have the opportunity to be in the thick of things.