Architecture that nurtures, not neglects

By Lester Ehrlich

One mark of good architecture is fitness for purpose. Another marker is whether a building is a thing of beauty.

As a long-time resident of Taringa and a practising architect, I am appalled by TriCare’s proposed design for an aged-care facility at Seven Oaks Street, Taringa. In my opinion, the design does not meet either mark because the aged-care building and the other towers are not fit for purpose for the care of our elderly, nor are they beautiful.

Overwhelming bulk, height and scale

The bulk, height and scale of TriCare’s development is overwhelming. Take a look at the model I’ve created and you’ll see what I mean. What’s more, the architectural drawings submitted to council so far, don’t even show a scale bar or dimensions so it’s difficult for people to appreciate the monstrous size of TriCare’s towers.  The Seven Oaks Street precinct is a three-level height precinct and TriCare is proposing to build three towers of 16, 14 and nine storeys!

An unmitigated mass
One way to understand the mass and size of the TriCare towers is to compare them with known buildings. A great example is the Kingshome residential buildings at 180-190 Swann Road. This development comprises three buildings of 68 apartments with one six-storey building and two 7-storey buildings with a total gross floor area of approximately 13,800sqm.

The TriCare proposal comprises three towers:

  • Building 1 has 16 storeys and 98 units in multi-residential retirement facility
  • Building 2 has 14 storeys and 53 units in multi-residential retirement facility
  • Building 3 is a 9-storey residential care facility with 255 beds.

That’s a total gross floor area of 40,480 sqm – three times the size of Kingshome!

Hand-made model by Lester Ehrlich: view looking south from Sundridge Street (Taringa)

Hand-made model by Lester Ehrlich: view from Seven Oaks Street looking south (Taringa)

Flagrant overshadowing and overlooking

The extent of the overshadowing and overlooking of the TriCare towers cannot be over-stated. Residents on Swann Road, and Whitmore and Seven Oaks Streets will lose light, ventilation, northern aspects and views. The overlooking is exacerbated by the TriCare proposal being built on top of the land, not into the land, while also giving their tower units higher ceilings than those in surrounding buildings, therefore increasing the effect of overshadowing.

Fit for purpose should be the goal

The Brisbane City Council’s Seniors’ Strategy 2012-2017 states that the Council will encourage “small, niche, well-integrated, well-designed residential aged-care facilities.”  I cannot see how sticking 255 beds in an aged-care facility in a multi-storey tower and developing two more towers next door, can possibly meet the council’s stated priority.

In fact, is what TriCare proposes really an ‘aged-care facility’?

Our most vulnerable senior citizens deserve something better – buildings and facilities with access to outdoor green spaces, landscaped grounds, and the kind of care that offers them opportunities to remain engaged and active, rather than cooped up like battery hens.

The Federal Government’s ‘Aged Care Roadmap’ indicates that over 53 per cent of residents in aged care have a diagnosis of dementia, and experts in the field, such a Professor James Vickers say that fit-for-purpose facilities are what we should be building.

In this article about a new suburban village designed especially for people with dementia , Professor Vickers says:

“…You need to look at a model where people become de-stressed and the best way of doing that is in a home-like environment.  We need to be looking at facilities that are fit for purpose.”

So what I’m challenging TriCare to do is to please relegate this monster to the ‘un-built work’ drawer, and build something sensitive and respectful for our elderly.  Something that sits within the landscaped grounds, not towering above it. Something that meets the test of fitness for purpose and beauty, and will give Taringa an icon, not an eyesore.

Lester Ehrlich is a director at Elia Architecture and a resident of Taringa. He has expertise in all facets of architectural practice from pre-design to project completion, with special emphasis on design. He has experience in a wide range of projects including commercial, residential, institutional buildings and aged-care projects.

7 replies
  1. Peter
    Peter says:

    When you see a design like this, you have to wonder if the architects have any clue about what’s best for an elderly person when entering aged-care accommodation. Lester’s right: we need something at the site that is fit for purpose. And that means ditching the towers and creating a beautiful home-like environment. Over to you TriCare.

  2. John Mayze
    John Mayze says:

    It’s hard to believe that any developer or architect who cared about elderly people would propose such an inappropriate design. I can’t imagine how detrimental it would be for the mental health of a vulnerable elderly person to be cooped up like a hen in a battery cage. I feel very sad that these developers think so little of elderly people that they’ve put profits ahead of what’s best for the wellbeing of the prospective residents of this facility.

  3. Monique Mayze
    Monique Mayze says:

    It would be so good to see a design that provides a beautiful home-like environment for elderly residents, and that also fits in with the character of Taringa. I know I would not want to live in a tower, nor put my parents in such a place. And of course the trees must be preserved. They are part of what makes the site special. Planting shrubs is not substitute for killing a 100-year-old tree.

  4. Simone stinson
    Simone stinson says:

    I know if I had to go into an aged-care home, or put my parents in one, the last thing I’d want is to end up in a tower, with no access to open green spaces. I wish our society cared more for its elderly and took care of them in a way that puts the preservation of their dignity and autonomy ahead of profits.

  5. Kate Crane
    Kate Crane says:

    Wow. Looking at those photos and reading about the sheer bulk of those towers, really brings home how huge and inappropriate this design is. Let’s hope TriCare comes back with something reasonable that people would like to live in.

  6. s.johnston
    s.johnston says:

    A nursing home at Taringa is welcomed if the structure conformes with the surrounding environment, three to four level buildings. The present design is ridiculous and frought with serious problems for the residents

  7. Jane Stanley
    Jane Stanley says:

    I am hoping that TriCare are listening to all us elderly people who may one day require care… Please do not put us into high rise buildings & treat us like battery hens… We need a place of safe keeping where we can intermingle with others and this is where the Retirement Villages come into play eg: a hamlet of houses or 3 – 4 story building in which one can get to know ones neighbours not a high rise Isolation centre.


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