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!
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.