Ageing population is one of today’s global challenges and the pressure for enabling ageing with dignity is as strong as ever. In this respect, the experience of Japan which has a significant proportion of the older population and the highest life expectancy is of particular interest. It would be fair to say that care and respect for the elderly is also shown through attention to their well-being and needs. The Geriatric Centre is a project for one of Moscow’s city districts, the project is a product of collaboration with Motoyasu Muramatsu Architects, who have impressive expertise in creating a safe environment for the elderly.

Summary of the designed project. The site had a shape of an elongated triangle, it consisted of several zones and had buildings along its perimeter. In outline, the western section was the visitors area, the eastern section had the medical centre and medical facilities, the inner section with natural landscape was allocated for walks and recreation. All buildings on the site were connected by second floor-level skyways, which optimized the travelling distance and tied all facilities into a single complex. A recreation centre with a second level space and 24 flats on the third floor was located on the northern perimeter of the site. Each flat had a terrace overlooking the courtyard.

The architect came up with an elegant solution to eliminate the feeling of isolation and limited space, which was to make the walls of the building see-through, removing any obstacles for looking from outside in and from inside out. The long east-west passage acted as a buffer zone between the centre and the motorway to the north. Tress and iron slat panels didn’t block the view.

Specific tasks of the project and how we tackled them. The first task was to create a Geriatrics Centre that could provide diverse experiences to its residents while ensuring their complete safety. Our project envisaged trees along the perimeter of the site and a pond give the residents a feeling of connection with nature. Walkways and benches were designed for comfortable pastime. Skyways connecting the buildings went above the garden between the trees, so residents could enjoy ever-changing scenery of the territory in different seasons and weathers. Large panoramic windows brought the beauty of nature even to those who couldn’t leave their room.

The second task was to provide every resident of the centre with the opportunity to choose a place or location to spend time according to their needs, wants and abilities. According to our design, those looking for an active pastime, could visit a recreation centre with a swimming pool and physical rehabilitation facilities. Every residential building had an open area on the ground floor for gardening or other hobbies (e.g. handicrafts). Residents could also socialise, play games or watch TV. Those looking for privacy could always get back to their dwelling and spend time alone. All stairs of the connected buildings had ramps to ensure accessibility.

The third task was to create a comfortable and friendly environment for every person on site, whether it be residents, visitors or staff. We designed a spacious access area and a porch with a big roof for visitors to avoid the inconvenience of bad weather. From the porch, visitors could get directly to the lobby and from there to the rooftop to enjoy the view of the courtyard garden from above. The rooftop access had ramps. Visitors could access any part of the territory, spend time with residents and take a walk in the garden. There was also a playground for children. The main goal was to make this centre a place of attraction and a source of positive emotions for everyone. Residents of this centre would be encouraged and invigorated by the positive energy of guests and care staff.

Architectural design for a health and social care institution is not about visuals and wow-effect, it is about carefully planned infrastructure and applicable requirements. However, being focused on those requirements only might end up in functionality that has no human touch. Thanks to Motoyasu Muramatsu, this project has its face and message: architecture needs to evoke one’s memories and emotions, encourage people to live and enjoy their lives to a full.