Discover Benelux, Issue 68, August 2019

Page 30

Parkhoven garden patio: the outdoor spaces are enclosed by buildings, allowing residents freedom.

Architecture that improves lives TEXT: MAYA WITTERS  |  PHOTOS: VNL-ARCHITECTEN

Architects Robert Landstra and Teunis Vonk took a big risk when they started their own company VNL-Architecten in the middle of the 2010 recession. Nearly ten years later, the company has become one of the Netherlands’ foremost experts on building for the healthcare sector, and particularly for patients with dementia. “We knew there had to be a better way of building for care patients – and today, we’ve proved that there is.” As colleagues at a large architecture firm, Landstra and Vonk shared an unease about the way most care facilities are built. “Building styles in the health sector tend to be fairly traditional, centred around patient wards. It just didn’t feel very nice or homely at all,” attests Landstra. “We wanted these clinics to feel much more residential, with a focus on living over care. Since we had no opportunities to produce our vision at the company we were work30  |  Issue 68  |  August 2019

ing at, we decided to take the jump and start our own firm.”

interventions help people in real-time is incredibly rewarding.”

Reducing anxiety through design

Small tweaks, huge impact

In the ten years since, VNL-Architecten has certainly proved that building for the care sector in a more residential style works. What’s more: it has a significant positive impact on patients’ wellbeing. “We worked with Breincollectief, a foundation that conducts research into the effects of dementia on the brain, to really understand what causes people with dementia anxiety,” says Landstra.

The duo’s design vision is perfectly exemplified in project Parkhoven, a dementia care complex in Leeuwarden. “This facility comes close to our ideal,” says Vonk. “The building is centred around small groups of seven residents each. We have designed these units so that the living situation resembles a normal residential house as closely as possible. This means that visitors call at the front door of each unit and step into a hall, rather than having to register at a central reception desk, for example.”

“We developed an architectural vision around our findings, which allows us to create designs that minimise anxiety and interference for those that suffer from dementia. These designs work so well, that many patients living in our buildings can lower their medicine intake, and less care personnel is needed. Seeing our

The various units are interconnected via the back, but the connecting features are hidden, so that each unit feels like a standalone household. “The benefit is that the connecting passages create en-