Another feature of the centre is the full-height glass doors that are opened
entirely when the centre is in operation. Why was such a borderless design
SCH: Another key question we had and wanted to challenge was the traditional construct
of a typical senior activity centre and how it could be reimagined. From our
studies, most of such centres located in the public housing void decks are either
gated or treated like “fish tanks” as they are fully glazed up. These spaces are
often clearly defined to offer security for the seniors. But in the case of
Goodlife! Makan, we were designing for stay-alone seniors. The idea of a
self-contained centre would not have helped stay-alone seniors overcome social
isolation nor destigmatise the public’s perception of them.
Originally, we conceived the centre as an entirely open space. But the client raised
several practical concerns about thermal comfort or situations of haze. To address
these issues, we employed a key architectural component that is one of the centre’s
key features – the door. The entire facade of the centre has a series of full-height
doors to create a welcoming space and to suggest that one can enter the centre from
all around. By keeping the doors fully open during operation, we blur the boundary
between the centre, corridor and larger estate. It also maintains the original
character of the void deck and allows for cross-ventilation which minimises the
reliance on air-conditioning.
In fact, when the centre first opened, many curious residents walked in thinking it
was a café. It became an opportunity for the centre’s social workers to share with
them about its programme and even recruit new volunteers!
How have the seniors taken to the centre since it officially opened in 2016?
SCH: Since its opening, Montfort Care staff have received many positive comments. There
were also many visits from ministries, agencies and foreign delegates. They were
interested to find out more about its design and programme. The seniors who were
engaged were happy with the centre.
After the project was completed, Montfort Care staff shared light-heartedly that our
project was giving them new issues as they had to manage seniors bickering over what
to cook and their different roles. I was honestly quite excited when I heard this as
it validates how we have fostered social interaction among them through design. By
communicating with one another about what to achieve together, the seniors have
gained a newfound sense of purpose and ownership at the centre. Such negotiations
are essential aspects of everyday life and through the exchanges, we have
successfully reintegrated these socially isolated seniors back to the community.
Over these past years, the centre has been very well used and we recently worked with
Montfort Care’s team to update it. The design principles remain the same, but we
have added new equipment, surfaces, more greenery and a café. The updated centre
also offers a dedicated space for day-nursing care run by Montfort Care in
partnership with Singapore General Hospital. It is interesting to see an ecosystem
of community-based care emerging through the centre. We are working with Montfort
Care to look at how its entire network of centres at the Marine Terrace estate,
which caters to different needs such as an elderly gym and a family welfare centre,
can start to synergise better with one another through design. As void decks are an
integral part of Singapore’s public housing landscape, they offer an abundance of
opportunities for more of such meaningful centres. They can be designed based on the
needs of different communities and, more importantly, build greater cohesion and
care for one another.