Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life
At a glance…
The Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life is a 12-acre, $300 million intergenerational campus in Silicon Valley. It offers independent and assisted living, family-style residential condos, and low-income senior rentals. It also has a vibrant “city” life including a fitness facility, early childhood and school age education programs, a teen center, a spa, café, gift shop, cultural arts center, onsite office space, and a health resource library run by Stanford University.
Envisioning not just housing and services, but a vibrant day-to-day community life, three nonprofit organizations and their architect formed a new intergenerational campus in Silicon Valley. The Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life includes independent and assisted living residences for seniors. Neighboring the senior housing are family-style residential condominiums and low-income senior rentals. For residents’ use, and welcoming the larger surrounding community, there is a high-level fitness facility, early childhood and school-age education programs, a teen center, a spa, café, and gift shop. An impressive cultural arts center, onsite office space for nonprofit organizations, and a health resource library run by Stanford University add another dimension to the village concept, as does LEED Silver Certification, which the campus is on track to receive.
The Jewish Home of San Francisco, the Jewish Community Center, and BRIDGE Housing and BRIDGE Urban Infill Land Development, teamed up to develop the 12-acre, $300 million site. Architect Rob Steinberg, of Steinberg Architects in San José, California, worked to integrate their visions and needs into a coherent development. The firm has created a variety of long-term senior housing projects, including the Classic Residence by Hyatt in Palo Alto, and was interested in turning senior housing into multigenerational living. Steinberg answers questions on the design process:
To a new generation of seniors, thinking about “long-term living” means sustainable design in a multigenerational environment. Many are favorably drawn to an urban neighborhood, and to a design that expresses their cultural heritage. Was this big, new vision the impetus for this project?
Steinberg: Looking back, it was serendipitous that a site became available that was too large for each organization to develop on its own. At first, the owners had expectations of far more separated buildings and functions. Senior housing to the left, community functions to the right, and a big green landscape in between. Over a series of design workshops, as they began to realize how much more they could gain through integration, the vision grew. For instance, in providing fitness, we combined resources to afford a large zero-depth pool that seniors could negotiate without steps and kids could use to learn to swim by just walking in. Then we could tie the senior housing directly into the community center’s lobby to access the pool. This is just one example of how the integration has unbelievably and significantly enriched each organization’s services.
How were you able to manage a design process that included organizations with diverse requirements, histories, and images?
Steinberg: We began by agreeing on principles before anything was drawn. Rather than having them come into meetings and say it’s pretty or not, or I like chocolate or not, we had a yardstick for comparison. We came up with nine guiding principles: the journey should be as important as the destination, opportunities for unprogrammed interactions are as important as programmed, and so on. These were instrumental in building consensus.
How did you communicate the design choices and costs among the different players to reach consensus from principles to building spaces?
Steinberg: We held design workshops and worked with key staff. For lay people, we started with hand-drawing and sketches-loose and user-friendly. We could capture ideas quickly. Then when it came time for consensus, we went into computer sketch-up programs or CAD modeling, to validate that what we were doing was cost effective. We also created photo-realistic models to put the building in context. When decisions were becoming finalized, we followed up with high-level sales perspectives.
This community, being on a Jewish campus, also has a cultural expression. Was that woven into the design?
Steinberg: On many levels. We began by looking at older Mediterranean urban forms, with a rich street life. Design details, such as the roof forms curving upward, lift eyes up toward heaven. The exterior colors are tied to seven specific fruits and grains mentioned in the Bible. Each building reflects its individual owner and users. The fitness center was designed to reflect the body, the children’s building has a panelized façade symbolizing building for the future, and the senior residences have a shingle façade that symbolizes experience, wisdom, and the wrinkles of old age. These kinds of connections help tie the campus visually and also differentiate one part from the whole.
How did you solve the balancing act between creating a connected community and the need for privacy? There are separate buildings for seniors’ housing and for family condominiums, and yet walking through the campus reveals residents of all ages and a variety of activities. Are the outdoor spaces where community occurs?
Steinberg: We provided choices. There are both outdoor “rooms” that can be shared by all the participants of an intergenerational community and outdoor rooms specifically designed for children and for seniors. We also provided indoor areas with cultural and physically shared opportunities for both.
We included multiple options for individual homes to connect to the larger community or not: units overlooking the town square, units that face the Midrohov, an urban intensified street environment that mixes all ages, and units that are located in quieter areas. Within the buildings, residents can retreat to a more controlled and isolated environment or look down from their balconies or window. In fact, a resident told me that the best part of her day was when she opened her drapes in the morning to see kids.
In creating dense communities where generations come together, design is crucial…
Dorit Fromm, AIA, writes and researches on design, community, and aging. Her writings have appeared in local, national, and international publications, and she is the author of Cohousing, Central Living and Other New Forms of Housing. She can be reached at
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Long-Term Living 2010 June;59(6):20-23