Now Reading: Creating Social Connections

BCQ's Community day care centre functions independently from the city fabric, on the boundary between street and park. Image by Carlos Climent

The current global shift towards the idea of Aging-In-Place brings with it the possibility of increased social isolation for older people living at home, with corresponding negative health outcomes.

Strong social ties have been linked to better general health1 and research has also shown that the availability of neighbourhood amenities and open space (NOS) can play an important role for older people in maintaining and enhancing their quality of life2 by creating beneficial connections between elderly people and the wider community3. With an emphasis on location, visibility, purpose and accessibility, architecture can make a significant contribution to this process.

View from the west. C/ de la Marina. Image by Carlos Climent. Click to enlarge

Located at the edge of an active public park, BCQ’s non-residential day centre for the elderly is intended as a hub for informal social encounters—it is a place where they can easily meet, talk and watch the world go by. In addition, the centre provides access to formal education courses and lectures as well as the facilities to host concerts, parties and dances.

Location Plan. Courtesy of BCQ

Toni Casamor of BCQ told us they have always conceived of the building as “an entrance pavilion from the street to the park and not something embedded in the urban fabric, a highly visible landmark—designed as an archway—around (and through) which people can easily pass on their way to and from the park.”

View of The Southeast corner, lower park level. Image by Carlos Climent.
The North Facade deceptively suggests a smaller building. Image by Carlos Climent. Click to enlarge

Significantly, the architects chose materials they believed would age naturally and improve with time. The timber and hand-made bricks are familiar materials to local people—a quality that can be very important in establishing a sense of connection and belonging for the elderly4.

The envelope is highly permeable as the primary facades are reduced to operable, timber screens that loosely define the interior, while maintaining a connection with the sounds and smells of the world outside.

The screened verandah. Affording a sense of social connection with a degree of separation. Image by Carlos Climent.
The main foyer conceived as a shaded thoroughfare between street and park. Image by Carlos Climent.

Although primarily intended to serve the needs of the elderly people in the neighbourhood, the location, facilities and open nature of Casa d Avis makes this an ideal host for intergenerational programs. Matthew Kaplan refers to these as “social vehicles that create purposeful and ongoing exchange of resources and learning among older and younger generations”. In addition to overall community benefit, such initiatives have been found to benefit participants by teaching youth and seniors—both frequently disempowered groups—that they have something to give to society. Participants feel valued, empowered, and socially engaged. 5

Image by Carlos Climent.

The building program is strategically spread over three levels. The lower ground floor contains a multi-purpose recreation space, accessed directly from the park. Informal social spaces and the main lecture hall are located, for ease of access, at street level and more formal education and training spaces occupy the upper level. The emphasis on meaningful, continuing education is of fundamental importance. New research indicates that cognitively challenging activities, starting from childhood, through adulthood and continuing in late life, can have important implications for the prevention or delay of dementia, especially for individuals with a genetic predisposition. 6

Upper level plan. Community training facilities. Courtesy of BCQ
Street level plan. Social and lecture facilities. Courtesy of BCQ
Lower Park Level Plan. Multi-purpose recreation area. Courtesy of BCQ

Link to BCQ website here

Jardins del Príncep de Girona, C.Marina with C.Taxdirt 08025 Barcelona
Barcelona Town Council — Horta-Guinardó District Council
Author Architects
BCQ Arquitectura Barcelona — David Baena, Toni Casamor, Manel Peribáñez, Maria Taltavull
Collaborator Architects
Alexandre Liberato
Carlos Climent
Structural Engineer
Jordi Granada, Arch.
M&E Engineering
Taller D’Enginyeria Ambiental
Technical Architect
Sergi Prat Gómez
Competition, 2005 / Project, 2005 / Construction, 2006-2008
Site Area
504,84 m2
Built Area
1,144.34 m2
Floor Area
492.45 m2 (Ground Floor); 329.58 m2 (First Floor); 322.31 m2 (Basement Floor)
AND S.A. de Serveis
Costs without VAT
Kausa Instal·lacions integrals i equipament per l'hàbitat
Ceramic Cladding
Ceràmiques Ferrer

  1. Mair, C.A. (2010) Social Ties and Depression: An Intersectional Examination of Black and White Community Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology 29 (6) 667-696. DOI: 10.1177/0733464809350167 — jag.sagepub.com/content/29/6/667 

  2. Sugiyama, T., Ward Thompson, C., Alves, S. (2009) Associations Between Neighborhood Open Space Attributes and Quality of Life for Older People in Britain. Environment and Behavior, V: 41, No.1 Sage Publications. DOI, 10.1177/0013916507311688 — eab.sagepub.com/content/41/1/3 

  3. Kaplan, M., Liu, S.t., and Hannon, P. (2006) Intergenerational Engagement in Retirement Communities: A Case Study of Community Capacity-Building Model. Journal of Applied Gerontology. No. 25: 406 DOI:10. 1177/0733464806292862 — jag.sagepub.com/content/25/5/406 

  4. Tanner, B. Tilse, C. de Jonge, D. (2008) Restoring and Sustaining Home: The Impact of Home Modifications on the Meaning of Home for Older People Journal of Housing for the Elderly. (2008) 22:3, 195-215 

  5. Kaplan, M., Liu, S.t., and Hannon, P. (2006) Intergenerational Engagement in Retirement Communities: A Case Study of Community Capacity-Building Model. Journal of Applied Gerontology. No. 25: 406 DOI:10. 1177/0733464806292862 — jag.sagepub.com/content/25/5/406 

  6. Wang, H-X., Gustafson, D. R., Kivipelto M., Pederson, N.L., Skoog, I., Windblad, B. Fratiglioni, L. (2012) Education halves the risk of dementia due to apolipoprotein and ε4 allele:a collaborative study from the Swedish Brain Power initiative. Neurobiology of Aging 33 p. 1007. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.10.003 — ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22056199