Perkins & Will, Vernon Woods Retirement Community

Vernon Woods Retirement Community – LaGrange, Georgia
Perkins & Will – Atlanta, Georgia
Type of Facility/Setting: Independent and Assisted Living

Facility Contact: Richard Hutcheson, VP Facilities, W. GA Health System

Firm: Perkins & Will, (404) 873-9655

Design Team: Ila Burdette, Principal-in-Charge, Project Designer; Nathan Kirkman, Project Architect; Hap Bliss, Project Manager; Amy Sickeler, Interior Designer

Photography: William Nelson

Resident Capacity: 92 (50 Independent Living; 42 Assisted Living)

Space/Resident (sq. ft.): 1,204 (gross)

Total Area (sq. ft.): 110,825 (gross)

Total Cost (excluding land): $14,142,939 (construction)

Cost/Sq. Ft.: $127.60

Completion: September 2000

The goal of Vernon Woods Retirement Community is to preserve and extend the warm friendliness of Southern small-town life that characterizes the community of 26,000 where it is located. The project encourages resident interaction by grouping units into neighborhoods named after local streets; the focus of each neighborhood is a public lounge that opens its corridor to natural light and contains a tea kitchen and adjacent gathering space. On the upper floors, lounges open onto trellised porches; on the lower floors, the individual entries lead directly to resident parking.

Vernon Woods’ internal layout is knit together by lively interstitial gardens and a variety of activity rooms sized for large and small groups. There is an especially wide range of dining venues: main community room, ice cream shop/cafT, assisted living outdoor terrace, private dining room and outdoor porches. These are strategically placed between independent and assisted living to intentionally spur interaction.

Vernon Woods’ most important goal is to aid residents by invisibly compensating for physical disabilities. The painted-wood Arts and Crafts handrail provides solid support but blends seamlessly into the overall millwork and paneling of the public spaces. The typical entry shelf located at resident unit entries has been doubled so that the upper portion can be used by seniors to display photos of grandchildren; the lower portion remains in working use for mail deliveries or as a place to rest packages while residents search for keys. These aids are essentially invisible-the very opposite of typical institutional mobility aids that call attention to themselves through cold stainless steel or plastic details. The result is a warm atmosphere that enables residents to stay in their hometown as long and as comfortably as possible.

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