Creating Care Communities


When designing care communities, the internal spaces are largely determined by the client’s brief; apartments, cottages, close care accommodation and treatment facilities, for example. It is in designing the communal areas for eating, relaxing, and indoor and outdoor leisure, that we can create spaces that are site specific and unique.

Whether designing for living, caring, working or leisure, here at Gaunt Francis Architects we know that the spaces between the buildings are as important as the buildings themselves. This is why as well as paying close attention to  detailed design, we are advocates of masterplanning. Too often, buildings are designed in isolation without due regards to their context, composition or neighbours. As well as being incredibly rewarding, one of the biggest advantages of designing large scale care communities is that we get the chance to pay close attention to all aspects of the site, buildings and spaces through masterplanning.


It is when we are challenged with a large empty site (the proverbial clean sheet of paper), that the skills of creating a legible community masterplan come into play. This is where the architect takes cues from the local vernacular and interprets and reinterprets them- possibly with a slight contemporary twist- to form the building blocks of a new project. The new buildings are designed as recognisable elements within an overall composition; the layout of the site for instance, being like a small village with the communal areas at the very heart of the community.


Very often our designs incorporate the retention of existing, sometimes historic properties. To these, we extend or add new accommodation, always ensuring that a network of internal and external spaces is connected throughout the scheme. These layouts evolve from early design principles, where our care community or village concept focuses not just on the buildings, but on the all important spaces between the buildings as well. This design approach allows us to provide legibility for the building user as well as the visitor. It includes private spaces, spaces for contemplation  and more public shared spaces.


The aim of the care communities we design is to allow residents the maximum degree of independence, whilst providing comprehensive support services and care packages.Working closely to the CQC standards, the buildings are designed to a minimum of ‘Lifetime Homes’ status, with a ‘Good’ BREEAM rating. (‘Lifetime Homes’ are ordinary homes incorporating 16 design criteria that allow homes to be adaptable and accessible for differing or progressing levels of care). Ease of access across the site for residents is also vital and our designs incorporate gardens and landscape principles of defensible space. We achieve ‘Secured by Design’ accreditation, which is particularly important for those residents who experience confusion or suffer from the early stages of dementia.


A good example can be seen in our scheme at Chalfont St. Peter in Buckinghamshire. Our early site layouts included roads, lanes, courtyards, gardens and parkland. These elements have developed into creating an integrated masterplan which echoes the components of traditional village settings.


Taking our cues from the surrounding area, we have created a central village street. This street comprises a mixture of Lutyen’s Arts and Crafts style accommodation buildings, using local brickwork, render, half timbering and clay tiles. This street leads into a central courtyard, which in turn, leads into the Main House with its associated care facilities, dining, lounge, health and wellbeing spa as well as units of accommodation and guest rooms.

The Main House is the central focus of the scheme, and the heart of the care village and  has been designed in a contextual manner, not only because this is in a Greenbelt site with onerous planning restrictions, but also to create a traditionally dignified backdrop to the central feature of the Care Community. The building is again, designed in a respectful nod to Lutyen’s Arts and Crafts style and located at the heart of the development, it adopts a simple plan. A central atrium divides the healing spa from the dining facilities on one axis and on the courtyard entrance from the parkland setting on the other. Here, quiet places of calm are created on terraces with garden areas overlooking the lakes and landscape beyond.


The building’s legibility, the ease by which the residents can use the building, and how simple it is to navigate are of critical importance in limiting the potential for confusion and uncertainty. Familiarity is also crucial for residents who experience confusion and memory issues and so this central building aims to stimulate memories for both residents and visitors, of a small scale country house complete with courtyard. We have balanced this effect with further accommodation enclosing our courtyard in the form of a latter-day stable block, again complete with gardens. Our street leads on through the courtyard, bending around cottages (no overt highways engineering here) with curved walls and retained mature trees into a Chilterns village hamlet where the buildings predominantly comprise local brickwork and timber cladding reminiscent of agricultural barns.


Having the opportunity to design specifically for the care sector, really enables us to make sure we pay due regard to the spaces between the buildings, the surrounding area and the context of the site. Paying proper attention to these spaces ensured at Chalfont St. Peter, that we created a harmony between buildings, interlinking spaces and gardens which in turn, created a serene and comfortably familiar community for the frail and elderly.

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