Learning and joy for children and the elderly

Both Sweden and Denmark have realised the importance of bringing several generations together under the same roof – and this places high demands on interior design when architecture has to accommodate both the oldest and youngest members of society. Read more about such experiences.

Troldtekt acoustic panels as wall cladding in educational buildings

At Sandarnas School in Gothenburg, school pupils and the elderly in care homes will now share a building. The project is the first of its kind in Sweden, and developing a project of this calibre requires respect and understanding of generational differences and needs.

"Designing a building for both school pupils and the elderly was an interesting challenge. We focused on timeless values and durable materials that people of all ages can relate to. Senior housing generally tends to feel more like a hospital than a home. In this case, we particularly focused on bright spaces, a coherent material palette and a 'sense of home', says Anna Risenfors, Architect SAR/MSA at what! Arkitektur, which is behind the project.

In Hemlingborg in southern Hemlingby, pupils and the elderly also gather under the same roof. Here, the city of Gävle is behind a large-scale project that includes senior housing, preschools, primary schools and sports halls. The new project previously featured national broadcaster SVT, opened in September 2023.


Photo: Sandarnas School in Gothenburg

Intergenerational encounters

In Denmark, Huset Nyvang has been bringing generations together under one roof for several years. Huset Nyvang is divided into three units: a ‘residential area’ with units for the care home residents, a service building, and an integrated daycare institution, the latter accommodating around 130 children aged 0-5 years. The aim has been to integrate the units as much as possible and enable social interaction and activity across generations. Central facilities such as the kitchen and an orangery have therefore been placed between the two units, and are open in both directions.

“Most often, it's the children who visit the elderly. Inside, they can meet in the orangery, for example, where the children can paint or engage in other activities. Outside, the children explore the footpaths between the housing units," says Kristina Møller Hansen, architect at Friis & Moltke, who is behind Huset Nyvang.

These meeting places allow the children to be creative and active, while the elderly can either join in or observe. The partially covered square is a good example of this. The same is true of the adventure path connecting the residential units.

“The aim has been to create life-affirming environments. The elderly may not actively participate, but they thoroughly enjoy being able to observe all the activity from a distance,” says Kristina Møller Hansen.


Robust materials in focus

The choice of materials is important when designing buildings to accommodate multiple generations with different needs and usage patterns.

In Gothenburg, the facade of Sandarnas School is made of concrete elements with inlaid, sand-coloured bricks and fields of glazed bricks that catch the light and provide an interplay of colours. Indoors, the focus has been on creating a cosy feeling for the elderly people who live there. This is reflected in the choice of materials.

"Natural materials, especially light-coloured pine panels, are used throughout the building's interior. Bright and calm colours brighten things up and facilitate orientation. Each floor has its own colour scheme. The light blue colour, which is reflected in the railings and details throughout the project, is reminiscent of Gothenburg’s history and matches, among other things, the Älvsborg Bridge just outside the building," says Anna Risenfors from what! Arkitektur.

In those parts of the school that are particularly exposed to noise, such as the dining hall, music room and creative rooms, the Troldtekt line design solution was chosen for the walls. Troldtekt is also used in the daycare centre, where the acoustic panels were chosen for the ceilings and, in several places, for the walls as well. 

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