Nursing Home Laichingen

New construction and expansion of a nursing home for the elderly — Feldstetter Straße 64, 89150 Laichingen, Germany — 1,100 m² — 2007 — Ortskrankenpflegeverein Laichingen

Independency in old age

Qualified care which is near to home and carried out as welfare and social work which is orientated towards Christian values: this is the tradition that the Laichinger Alb Care Centre follows. The present hospital has been run independently since 1907 and first acquired a ward for the care of the elderly in 1988. In 1996, as well as extending the hospital an independent nursing home was added – the extension of which was officially opened in Autumn 2007.

The bright, friendly, and generously furnished rooms are suitable for long-term residential care. In addition, however, it is possible to take up the offer of temporary care – largely financed by healthcare insurance. Elderly people can also be looked after here for just a few days or a couple of weeks. This can be a way of taking the burden off relatives who are carers, for example, but can also be offered by way of convalescence following a stay in hospital. It is even possible to make use of the centre's qualified care staff during the day, and go back home again in the evening.

Designed to blend perfectly

Considering the successive redensification in the course of the previous extensions and additions to the hospital and care centre complex, the architects blocher partners, who were selected following a competition, were in particular accorded the task of ensuring the visual unity of all parts of the building, without any interruptions. The various functional areas, such as the hospital, nursing home and senior citizens' housing development, had to be centralised into a compact group, rounded off by a doctors' surgery, a physiotherapy centre and a pharmacy.

The proportions of the new developments were chosen in such a way that they would be embedded into the rural landscape and the hillside location of the idyllic Alb region. At the same time, the architectural plans were supposed to simultaneously pursue the aims of functionality and cost-effectiveness. In regard to the specifications concerning the interior design, an overall friendly character of the building was the goal. The intention was to make the centre as bright as possible, and also choose a colour scheme which served the purpose of orientation, while at the same time contributing towards promoting a positive atmosphere among residents, carers and visitors. While the functional construction of the hospital was to be preferably constructed in a practical manner, the nursing home and the senior citizens' housing development geared towards longer-term residence were to convey a homely impression.

A harmonious ensemble

The entire extension of the Laichinger Alb Care Centre comprised all nine work phases and a time span of a good 16 years. These covered the construction of the senior citizens' housing development from 1991 to 1993 and the functional hospital building and senior citizens' nursing home, both constructed between 1995 and 1997, as well as the extension of the hospital between 2001 and 2003 and the senior citizens' nursing home between 2004 and 2007. The individual buildings are concentrated into a harmonious group, which makes future extensions possible without interfering with the existing design.

Therefore, the care centre expands in line with the requirements of its users and visitors. The interior architectural concept considers informal lines, with a type of construction that offers maximum light and radiates warmth. An unobtrusive colour scheme, alternating with strong splashes of colour, ensures improved orientation and makes the individual rooms instantly recognisable. The floors are fitted with easy-care linoleum and robust industrial parquet flooring, floral pictures are to be found on the walls, and extensive windows ensure that the light falls naturally. In addition to standard furniture, there is room for the patients to equip the rooms with personal items. Light-coloured wood gives the room a congenial rural charm.

Well-arranged and open structure

The latest extension of the senior citizens' nursing home is connected on the same level as the sloping floor of the existing nursing home. A partially transparent connecting vestibule leads past the openly-designed office and reception area and into a bright and friendly central living area. All the necessary adjoining and sanitary facilities are grouped around the communal rooms. The two care junctions can easily be reached directly from the central living area. The generous care rooms containing sanitary facilities suitable for the disabled are all aligned to either the East or West.

The challenge for the architects lay in considering how to co-ordinate the reconstruction with the new development. The substance of the old building had to be freshened, without producing the effect of being incongruous with the buildings that were subsequently erected. In addition it was important to contribute towards the residents being able to remain independent for as long as possible. This required scrupulous planning, which would provide for all eventualities, create a new home with "friendly" residences, and, through areas for communication, avoid any isolation. It was also essential to plan how to implement complex medical requirements – and in fact in such a way that an atmosphere nevertheless emerges in which the people who are resident here feel as if they are being looked after well. The patients are not so much to be viewed as such, but should also have their privacy as individuals respected. The positive reactions of both residents and nursing staff and the fact that the house has a high level of occupation more than justify the planning expenditure. The draft for the section built between 1997 and 2001 was acknowledged with the Award for Exemplary Development, in the Alp-Danube and the Ulm Region. The Prize is was awarded for 'architecture that considers all aspects of a building' by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Architectural Association with the aim to introduce it to a broad public.

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