In order to understand what the residents in Het Dorp (The Village), a residential facility for people with disabilities, needed, Eric Vredenburgh went to live there a few days himself. The architect rolled around in a wheelchair and was hoisted from bed to bath. His experience resulted in two special ‘adaptable’ houses that provide a glimpse of the future.
“If you experience firsthand what it is like to have a disability, you gain new insights,” says Eric Vreedenburgh. Within just one year, his agency Archipelontwerpers, home automation designers, caregivers from client Siza, a group of active residents and an unorthodox construction manager created two innovative pilot houses at Het Dorp in Arnhem, a residential facility for people with disabilities. “If we had approached this in the traditional way, it never would have worked.”
The assignment was to make a house where disabled people could live as independently as possible. He added the word ‘pleasant’ himself: “As far as I’m concerned, it can also be more enjoyable.” And it became much more than that. The houses are energy neutral, spacious, light, flexible and packed with innovative home automation features. And all within the standard construction costs. Literally everything is controlled with a tablet, from opening the front door to closing the curtains. Those who are unable to control a tablet with their hands can use eye movements instead. According to Vreedenburgh, “The starting point for the design was that the house needed to adapt to the resident, and not the other way around. I approached it from the point of view of the resident, who wants to easily move around the house, have a good view of their surroundings and look at the lovely folded ceiling from their bed.”
The residents of Het Dorp are now testing out the apartments in advance of applying these concepts to the entire village. It is already obvious that they are very proud of the results: “They don’t look like care homes. We often hear from people without disabilities that they would like to live here as well.”