A&M students lauded for 'Smart Aging' designs

Studio tackles 10-acre senior residential developement in U.S. design competition


The “smart-aging” residential designs of five Texas A&M architecture students earned them runner-up and honorable mention honors in a 2003 national design competition, “Aging in Place,” sponsored by the National Center for Seniors Housing Research.

Robert Wilson and Zeel Ambekar tied for the competition’s runner-up award with designs that focused on sites in Philadelphia. They were sponsored by Bob Warden, an associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M.

Wilson's Fishtowne community design was a high-density redevelopment of a vacant industrial site along the Delaware River. Mixed-use residential as well as multi-income housing were the mainstays of the community in what jurors called an excellent example of the new urbanism concept. "A successful community lasts even after the place has aged,” wrote one reviewer of Wilson’s design.

Ambekar approached the design challenge by proposing shared housing between students and older adults. The setting was a dense urban area on the Schuykill River close to both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. Both students and older adults would benefit from Ambekar’s arrangement because students would live in a home environment, while the older adults enjoyed security and daily interaction. The design incorporated renovation of existing buildings as well as new construction.

Also in the winner’s circle, tied for honorable mention honors, were Gaurang Sheth and the team of Dhiren Babaria and Ankur Deshpande. Their faculty advisor was Mardelle Shepley, a professor of architecture who for three consecutive years has advised students who have placed among the annual competition’s top three entries.

Gaurang Sheth's Lake Travis community design was a suburban cul-de-sac cluster development within walking distance of amenities. It recognized that aging in place concepts can be achieved in a typical suburban design.

In contrast, the team of Barbaria and Deshpande chose a site in Suffolk County, New York on which to create the Mill Pond Senior Housing Community. A very wealthy residential resort area, their design was a multi-unit oceanfront structure featuring natural light, accessibility, and controlled vistas.

The first place winner was Travis Bunt, an architecture student at the University of Arizona who submitted a low-scale and adaptable design that fit the historical context of the target neighborhood. Bunt’s units were also easily adaptable to meet residents' changing housing needs.

The competition encouraged students to address urban issues, such as infill housing and smart growth, as well as aging in place. Participants were asked to design a community on a 10-acre urban site with transportation and other amenities in close proximity. Over half of the competition entries came from students of architecture programs. Other disciplines included architectural technology, construction management/construction science, interior design, and occupational therapy.

“We are impressed not only by the number of competition entries, but also with their high quality,” said Mike Luzier, president of the research center located in Upper Marlboro, Md. “The home building industry will certainly benefit from entrants' enhanced understanding of older adult housing issues, such as the desire to age in place."

An esteemed panel of jurors reviewed all submissions based on creativity, buildability, and livability. Jury members included: Margaret Caulkins, Innovative Designs in Environments for an Aging Society; Peter Katz, author of “The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community”; Wolfgang Preiser, University of Cincinnati; Barry Rosengarten, the Rosengarten Companies; Katherine Salant, architect and syndicated newspaper columnist of "Your New Home"; and Gerald Weisman, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

The National Center for Seniors' Housing Research was established in the spring of 2000 by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center in cooperation with the Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The goal of the Center is to enable all Americans to continue to live comfortably, safely and independently in their own homes as they age regardless of income or ability level.

To learn more about NCSHR projects visit their Web site at http://www.nahbrc.org.


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