The new Day Care Center for People with Alzheimer’s Disease in Benavente (Zamora, Spain) arises from the aging of the region’s population. When designed, there was no proven scheme for this typology, despite the growth of the disease in recent years in some regions of the country. Hence, the initial program only specified the inclusion of spaces for cognitive and physical stimulation activities, with a dining and rest area for fifty users.
Therefore, the first task was to understand the logic of this typology and crystallize it into an architectural scheme.Another important starting point was the location of the Center within a double boundary situation (territorial and urban). On the one hand, the town is located on the periphery of the great Castilian plateau, so it is endowed with a particular topography: between hills, valleys and plains, with a historical condition of crossing roads, and some of the main arterial roads of the country.
On the other hand, the plot is also located within a municipal boundary area, on a hill with a steep slope between an expansion area and farmland. This situation emphasizes the conjunction of landscapes in the building again.
These ideas motivated the positioning of the building in the upper part of the plot to facilitate a stratum of it to rotate and tear the slope to create a new plain area.
Then, in a second movement, part of that stratum rises another level vertically to protect the building on its urban front. Thus, a new line of the horizon is created, the main subject of the building, which not only symbolizes the synergy of the community in the face of this disease but also dialogues with the landscape.
Once on the surface, the emerging stratum is excavated to house the different spaces.
These are divided into four zones according to their degrees of privacy and use. On the one hand, two large retaining walls extend outwards to mark the entrance and separate the public spaces (differentiated as administrative and multipurpose areas) from the private ones. At the same time, the latter spaces are articulated around two corridors of generous width, which diversity assists in spatially orienting visitors.
These spaces are conceived as the most important “rooms” with therapeutic functioning in the Center. From each of them, the rest of the private spaces can be accessed. One provides access to the most frequently used rooms (classrooms, geriatric bathrooms, courtyards), and the other to the lesser-used spaces (dining area, rest area).
All of them are designed according to the specific needs of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, it is designed with a clear and forceful scheme that optimizes the operation of the building, allowing for simple, simultaneous and independent use of the different areas and a maximized use of its energy resources.A great significance is given to the design elements inside the building.
These details help to qualify the space and make it more recognizable and comfortable for the user. For example, the continuity of the railings in the corridors, the courtyards (classrooms) that allow inhabitants to engage in activities while in clean air and natural lighting, or the use of materials that improve the comfort of the user and the use of the Center.
In this sense, the classrooms gain importance for their position and the use of the large windows that connect the excavated space to the landscape.The rest of the plot (developing in a second phase) is a large two-level garden. However, both levels are conceived together due to their common conceptual origin, and the upper garden extends itself over the green roof and water storage.
Hence, the building is related to the landscape, both formally and materially. This area is conceived as the largest room in the Center, as it encourages outdoor activities and assures users direct contact with the outside and the landscape of their memory.