Northwood at the Parks

Celebrating the Individual in the Institution. Bedford West, NS

Our journey to seek excellence in design for seniors was borne from our resolve that nursing homes must no longer be thought of as boring, foul smelling institutions, with a pervasive sense of death and doom. We found that much can be achieved with the built environment to improve the lives of those who suffer from frailty, depression, dementia and, worst of all, the three plagues of nursing home life: loneliness, helplessness and boredom.

We wanted to create a place that felt like home. Not a place with all the cute residential trimmings, but rather somewhere that conveys a sense of place with ambition and sincerity.

We wanted to show that it is possible to break down ‘the institution’ in spite of a 150,000 square foot floor area. We wanted residents to feel comfortable calling a nursing home their home, and we recognized that it may very well be the last place they will live.

We were inspired by local vernacular, where civic pride and pride of ownership really stand out in people’s homes, assisted by the tradition of using paint leftover from painting the fishing vessels. We found guidance at Cinqe Terra in Italy, where each home stands out individually in a sea of dwellings, and in Hunterwasser’s apartment buildings in Vienna which reflect tenants’ rights and sense of place in the façades.

While conveying a sense of celebration and joy, the building’s exterior design aims to do what no nursing home has done: to allow each resident to identify their “home” or “place” from the outside. To do this, we believe very strongly that one must be able to easily visually, symbolically and formally demonstrate belonging. The point of the façade design is to be able to say, “See that blue one on the corner, that’s where I live.”

Each resident room is expressed as an image of home. It is easy to find where you live from the outside. The result is a welcoming, lively, celebratory village of homes perched on a hillside. This is a radical departure from the typical institutional nursing home and we are very proud of it.

“Rather than counting windows on a vast façade, residents and their visitors can instantly identify their rooms from the outside, creating a sense of belonging and place.”
-Long Term Living Magazine, Environments for Aging, March 2011

“It is just unbelievably beautiful.”
-Honourable Maureen MacDonald, Minister of Health, April 2010

Photography: Aerial photograph by Vision Air Services. Resident bedroom and salon photographs by Chris Reardon. All other photographs of the building by Deborah Nicholson.

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