Building Community From the Ground Up

In a feature for Breaking Ground, I covered an intergenerational community that will house an order of aging religious sisters, provide assisted living for seniors, and welcome single mothers who are working on their college degrees.

Accommodating all those different residents at Trinity Woods meant incorporating their needs into the design from the beginning. Corridors are wide, to allow multiple people with walkers or wheelchairs to pass each other comfortably. Light switches and outlets are placed higher up on the walls, not specifically in order to keep them out of reach of the curious toddlers, but rather so that seniors with balance difficulties don’t need to crouch down in order to plug in a cord. The mothers’ apartments are designed with limited interior walls, so a mother who is parenting alone will always be able to keep an eye on her child, even when she’s studying at her desk.

The design is centered on the Town Square, which includes a chapel, spaces for dining, and a plaza. Although the Town Square offers the chance for the different communities to mingle, the design allows separation to be maintained in the face of the pandemic, or even a normal flu season. The north and south entrances have larger vestibules that can operate as a checkpoint for temperature-taking and symptoms surveys.

The new building will have a chapel that also doubles as a multipurpose room. But no matter who is using the space, their activities will be kaleidoscope-colored by the stained-glass windows moved from the sisters’ chapel at Elm Grove. The old chapel will be demolished, but the windows, the most fragile piece of their home together, will be carefully wrapped and re-set in new casements.

Read the whole thing at Breaking Ground