Motion Picture & Television Fund beneficiaries enjoy their sunset years at a center built by SmithGroup
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 2/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
In the 1940s, seeking to care for Hollywood retirees, the Motion Picture & Television Fund opened a complex on 40 acres in Woodland Hills, California. Eventually, an assisted-living facility, residential cottages, a hospital, a chapel, a theater, and an activity center occupied one half of the site. Development of the remaining half and a master plan for the entire campus recently fell to SmithGroup, which completed the Fran and Ray Stark Villa in December.
Design principal Bill Diefenbach and project manager Joyce Polhamus of SmithGroup engaged in a yearlong process to identify quality-of-life issues. Concepts became reality in a central building spline—double-faced, giving equal emphasis to pedestrians and vehicles, and characterized by slate tiles and a curved seamed-metal roof—plus two wings accommodating a total of 70 units. "We were liberated by the L.A. client type," Diefenbach says. "Minds are open to contemporary expression."
Contemporary language continues inside the 63,000-square-foot Stark Villa. The main ground-floor lounge could hold its own against any fine hotel's lobby, and there's even a grand staircase, albeit constructed for dramatic effect and used primarily by staff. To profit from views, the building's three floors are organized along single-loaded corridors with expanses of full-height fenestration; facing partition walls are fitted with custom benches where residents can rest.
With senior-care centers, architectural intent hinges on a ubiquitous phrase: Provide a home, not a facility. For the villa's interior, this mantra took form first in spatial allotments. Typically, senior facilities have only one all-purpose room, reconfigured for changing activities. Contrary to this norm, SmithGroup placed a variety of common spaces, including a radio-production room, on every floor. "Over 40 percent of the area is dedicated to common spaces, so people don't stay in their units," Polhamus explains. The business center, modeled on airport red-carpet clubs, provides a work surface, fax machines, and computers. Activity centers and "family rooms" on every floor are color-coded to give residents an extra reminder of their location. Most thoughtful, however, is the fact that few of these common areas have a door closure, which would require the resident to make a full-scale commitment to entry. Instead, the open plan offers easy views to populated areas.
As a further impetus to socializing, SmithGroup purposely kept residents' individual units small, at 350 to 600 square feet, but each opens to a patio or balcony. Given the southern California location, landscaping and the outdoors emerged as particularly critical. The central structure's pedestrian side is reached by a bridge crossing a koi pond. Together, the elements evoke the setting of a residential villa, perhaps somewhere in Beverly Hills.