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Vital Senior Living

Bold colors and clean lines, along with local texture, modernize new senior center

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Photo: Phebus Photography
Completed September 2016, the 33,000-square-foot Lexington Senior Center in Lexington, Ky., was designed so seniors could have the tools and opportunities to remain independent, healthy and involved with space for a range of activities for them to develop and maintain a high quality of life.

The two-story building features flexible multipurpose areas for art activities, educational and recreational classes, along with gaming areas, library, lounge and cafés. There are also walking trails, outdoor fitness areas and parking for 200.

The senior center was designed by Lexington-based EOP Architects, along with consulting firm, Catlin+Petrovick Architects PC, Keene, N.H. J. Harding Dowell, AIA, associate at EOP Architects, says the firm started with a broad effort of community engagement, ensuring that the voices of the local senior community were heard and considered in the facility’s design.

The Lexington Senior Center anchors the southern end of a public park, and is situated approximately 1,000 feet from the nearest main arterial road. Since the building needed to be noticeable from a distance, designers were able to use a recognizable form and bold material palette to create an engaging and unique piece of contemporary architecture. “A clean and unfussy façade served a dual purpose,” Dowell explains. “It keeps the building rooted in its particular time and place, and gives the city of Lexington a resilient and sustainable asset for the future.”

Additionally, Dowell says they took the opportunity to engage the building with the landscape by varying the form, by removing some of its visual heft, and utilizing natural limestone as a way of keeping it grounded in the landscape. “Pops of color and metal cladding give the building a bold street presence,” he adds.

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Photo: Reggie Beehmer Photography

DESIGN GOALS

When designing the building, Dowell says they focused on two things: How to design a building in a park, and how to create a welcoming environment for seniors. To address the park that surrounds the building, each façade was tailored to the adjacent views and activities, as a way to make the building visually engaging from all directions.

“We also tried to include as much glass as was practical to bring the outside in,” Dowell adds. “Creating a welcoming environment meant lowering the barriers for inclusion, literally and figuratively. By building the plan around an activated central plaza, we eliminated closed doors and corridors that dissuade seniors from participating in new activities. Similar to the exterior, we included as much interior glass as we could to put the building’s activity on display, making it a vibrant collection of uses.”

In keeping with the key design goal, Dowell says it was important that the building’s layout was understandable and accessible. “From the front door, you can see every public space on the first floor, as well as the clear pathways to the second floor,” he explains. “As we age, we’re less likely to engage with new or unfamiliar activities, so lowering the barriers to entry was a design choice in the service of helping seniors feel comfortable and included. More practically, it governed our choices of interior materials and lighting, so that spaces were brightly lit and comfortably resilient for users with limited eyesight or mobility.”

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Photo: Reggie Beehmer Photography

NATURAL DESIGN PALETTE

The designers explored several design concepts for the exterior, before settling on a natural palette. “It treats each elevation almost as a painting, an assemblage of texture and color that corresponds to the program and plan within,” Dowell says. “In the end, the exterior is really an expression of the interior, rather than fitting the plan to a predetermined or iconic form.”

The natural palette uses a combination of layers that build on one another. Aluminum composite material (ACM) panels provide a clean, neutral base, while Indiana Limestone is a natural material that grounds the building. Glass provides openings to break into the interior and provide selected views to the exterior. Stucco provides bold pops of colors that call out key programmatic elements, such as the café and the main multipurpose space. Metal screens provide shading and lend activity to the exterior façades.

The LEED Gold-certified building uses a superinsulated building envelope, high-efficiency HVAC systems and ground-source geothermal loop to reduce the building’s energy usage. “Daylighting reduced our need for electric lighting and provides views throughout the building,” Dowell explains. “The landscape is entirely irrigation-free and full of native plantings, and utilizes passive stormwater management structures to control and treat all of the site’s runoff. Interior materials have abundant recycled content, and use all low- or no-VOC paints, sealants and finishes.”

The facility is comprised of 12,000 square feet of Perth Amboy, N.J.-based Englert Inc.’s standing seam metal roofing and wall panels. Englert supplied its 22-gauge aluminum Series 2500 metal roof panels in pre-weathered Galvalume and three different types of metal wall panels, including its 24-gauge Corrugated Metal Wall Panel 2.67x0.75 with a PermaColor 3500, 24-gauge Uniline C-36 metal wall panels in Charcoal Grey PermaColor 3500, and CWP 200 ACM wall panels in Silversmith. The aluminum-framed storefront and curtainwall systems came from Tubelite Inc., Walker, Mich., while the sunshades were custom-fabricated from aluminum channel.

Photo: Reggie Beehmer Photography

POSITIVE RESPONSE

Dowell says they’ve been blown away by the public response to the new building. “It’s driven traffic 200 percent over the previous facility, with more seniors signing up for activities and classes every day,” he says. “From the immediate neighborhood to the greater Lexington community, it’s been a real quality of life upgrade for one of our most vital populations. We’re proud to have been a part of a collaborative design effort with such great results for our community.”

Lexington Spread