0000 Presentatie Diemen Met Marlous

gardening together

gardening together

1:1 experiment in care centre 'de Diem' in Diemen, Amsterdam. A care centre opens the door of its garden to its neighbour, a primary school. A previously closed garden becomes a school garden for all generations.

interdisciplinary research project: organised by The Netherlands Fund for Creative Industries
supervisors: Henri Snel, Caro van Dijk
location: De Diem, Diemen, Amsterdam

In 2014 and 2015 the Stimulation Fund for the Creative Industry organised a multidisciplinary research project on dementia for designers, landscape architects and architects. The participants, under the guidance of experts, worked in collaboration with carers on proposals for three exemplary locations in and near Amsterdam. The three very different residential care centres were chosen to represent the divers reality in the Netherlands.

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gardening in Diemen: the 1: 1 experiment consisted of a number of garden days in the garden of the residential care center. Die Diem's demented residents and the children of neighboring primary school were invited together for garden activities.

In small teams or alone the participants worked on specific design proposals that at the end were presented in the form of 1: 1 installations. Mechthild Stuhlmacher was one of the participants working on a proposal in keeping with the line of thought developed during her work on the Machelen care center and several design- and research projects on the subject matter at the Faculty of Architecture of the TU Delft . During the actual 1:1 implementation, a series of experimental garden afternoons, Mechthild’s students came to observe and to help - all students who at the time worked on their graduation project on dementia care.

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In our view present day care centres suffer from a distance to nature and people from different ages. For practical and well-meant reasons most spaces are hermetically sealed, sterile, lonely, artificial. For us as architects this belongs to the most fundamental problems of current residential care centres. 

Our conclusion of the many discussions we had during the study project was therefore quite simple: in order to really improve the living environment and well-being of demented elderly people, it is not enough to provide better facilities, more beautiful interiors and more carefully designed objects. And it's not done with just 'more hands at the bedside'. To add literally more life, more people, more nature, and more sensory pleasure to the living environment of demented elderly people we need people, plants, children, soil, dirt, sounds, living creatures. And thus smart strategies and partnerships.

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final presentation of the outcome of the study project in the garden of care centre De Diem near Amsterdam

The considerations that have already played a part in our work, especially in the design of the residential care centre in Machelen near Brussels, were confirmed- there we designed the building very consciously around a public terrace and an interior garden that we program as allotment- and school-garden, with vegetable beds, chicken, water and flowers. 

The proposal for ‘De Diem’, a care home in the suburb of Diemen at the outskirts of Amsterdam built in the 70s we ultimately presented, was effective and simple. The building owns a rather well kept garden but doesn’t use it- except for some nurses who go there to smoke. The inhabitants of the nursing home hardly ever get the chance to spend time there and the interior of the public rooms in the building turn their back to the garden. For security reasons the garden is surrounded by a high fence. On the other side of the fence there is bicycle path and a paved schoolyard belonging to the adjacent primary school. 

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In the elderly home in Machelen the garden contains elements that are not 'designed' such as a chicken shed, chestnut fencing and bird houses. These elements open the door for the daily, normal life into the care home and form the essence of the social artwork by artist Rudy Luijters.

We suggested to open the gate in the fence to allow the children to enter and use the garden. We envisioned that the quiet garden could change into a lively social, green and healthy place for all generations by simply opening a door. We organized meetings between the immediate neighbours who had hardly ever spoken to each other before. We sat around the table with the director of the school, a childcare organisation and the residential care centre itself. As a first experiment everyone agreed to open the fence during a few summer months. Children of different ages in colourful vests entered the quiet garden. Some residents were brought to the garden (unfortunately not very many) and we spent a few happy hours with the children planting flowers and vegetables we bought for the minimal budget we were given for our 1:1 installation.

Even the experimental setting we organised produced an encouraging scene.  It became immediately obvious that residents, their caregivers, children, and their teachers enjoyed the activities. As a scenario for the near future, we therefore outlined some simple rebuilding proposals we developed with the aim to reduce the current large barrier between garden and interior or make it disappear completely.

The therapeutic effect, the usefulness and the pleasure of gardening together have been scientifically demonstrated. Young children and the elderly have the same benefit from plants, colours, scents, nature. And of course from being outside and experiencing others.

Unfortunately, the durable implementation of a seemingly logical thought proved more difficult than we imagined. For opening doors there are no specific budgets and security rules make it even more difficult. Relocating storages and removing vitrages for the sake of seeing a beautiful garden has no priority. Nevertheless, we sincerely hope that the management of the care centre and the healthcare institution will eventually see that also very simple steps can be taken to improve the living environment of the elderly.

Diemen Aerial 01 General Aerial Photo

the starting point: aerial photograph of the situation. On the other side of the fence there is the garden of the elderly home, to the right the school yard without green and any social possibilities.

Presentatie 150611 Part2
Presentatie 150611 Part3
Presentatie 150611 Part4
Presentatie 150611 Part5
Presentatie 150611 Part6
Presentatie 150611 Part7
A design proposal in several steps to reduce the barrier between the natural, social life outside and the inhabitants of te care home.
Presentatie 150611 Part8

The final scenario showing a green school yard as the center of a neighbourhood for all generations. A greenhouse between care home and school replaces the current fence.