Sergison Bates

Care home . Huise-Zingem

Sergison Bates architects . photos: © David Grandorge

The challenge was to design a large, complex building that would provide services for a wide variety of needs in a sensitive way, to preserve the dignity of residents and foster a feeling of home.

© Kristien Daem

We were inspired by Bejinhofs - communities of almshouses with meeting halls and the church placed around a central space, often protected by a wall - and reinterpreted the ideas of connection, protection and common ground in our masterplan. Thus the new care home establishes an important relationship with the existing school and the serviced housing to be built in a later phase.
Three equivalent geometrical volumes are placed together in a stepped form, with two courtyards creating views both outwards and inwards. The 88 rooms are organised as a series of clusters, as if to support a large family household, linked by an interior landscape of wide, light passageways and living rooms. A yard adjoining a hotel in Gent and the courtyards in Pieter de Hooch’s paintings were our references for the stepped courtyard, reflecting the scale and texture of the spaces residents are familiar with.
Like the surrounding landscape, it is a building of long lines, with deep precast concrete shelves projecting to differing extents on each face of the building. Local green-grey brick is used to form piers with a ‘broken bond’, and the openings between these emulate the vertical proportion and sense of depth of the former magisterial convent (now school) next door.
We learnt some memorable lessons from our client: the advantages of north-facing courtyards and indirect sunlight for residents who are unable to move; the desirability of views of the car park, with all the comings and goings, over views of the landscape; the importance of handrails and skirting boards as tactile rather than merely utilitarian elements; the comfort of having familiar things around and of being able to see trees and plants grow with the seasons.

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