There's something about being in the company of smart, creative, spirited people that energizes me and inspires me to dream bigger dreams and aspire to greater achievements in my own life. I know that sounds corny but it's true.
Such was the case when I recently traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, for DESIGN's 2011 competition, sponsored by Long-Term Living, The Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE), The Center for Health Design, and the American Society of Interior Designers. Over two days, I observed a highly accomplished group of long-term care designers, architects, providers, and academics hunker down to a formidable task-judging 38 entries that represented the full spectrum of design being practiced today-from a low-income, government-funded nursing home; to a moderate-income, independent living facility located by a vibrant urban university campus; to a progressive, upscale hospice nestled in an idyllic country setting. The best projects married interior and exterior design and flow in an intuitive, natural way.
Reactions to the submissions ranged from “provocative,” in describing an avant-garde exterior, to praise for community integration and use of indigenous features. Criticism was leveled at the “ubiquitous use of Prairie-style architecture,” country kitchens, and especially porte cocheres, which one judge said “scream senior living,” even if functionally they're necessary.
Throughout the lengthy judging process, the camaraderie, encouragement, and energy never flagged. This was particularly evident during the DESIGN roundtable, where the judges met at the conclusion of the process to talk about trends and issues in senior living design. It was inspiring (again) to observe the passion that fuels their advocacy for the many critical issues relating to seniors and their living environments. It's also refreshing, in a time of cynicism and economic hardship, to witness optimism and hope for a field that is more often on the receiving end of criticism than praise.
I want to thank our hosts, the management and staff of The Cascades Verdae, for their warmth and hospitality. They provided a comfortable venue and kept us well-fed, in addition to giving a wow-inspiring tour of their award-winning CCRC (a 2010 DESIGN Citation of Merit winner).
Congratulations to all of this year's winners. And if you have an innovative, award-worthy project, consider submitting it to next year's competition. You may find that your inspiration is contagious, too.
Design Environments for Aging 2011 2011 March;():6