According to Mahatma Gandhi, “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” By this metric, Spain can be considered among the most compassionate. The country boasts one of the world’s highest life expectancies and, despite a growing aging population, its seniors receive a high standard of care and enjoy a high quality of life.
This reverence for Spain’s elderly drove the design of Vitápolis, a new residential complex in Toledo that provides all the dignity of aging-in-place with the added benefits of around-the-clock care and a profound sense of community. Helmed by co-housing specialists Romero & Vallejo, the project was overseen by a multidisciplinary team of architects, engineers, surveyors, economists, lawyers and health personnel to ensure that the project would be designed to best serve its inhabitants as well as the surrounding neighbourhood of Santa María de Benquerencia.
While retirement residences are often thought to be sterile and generic, Vitápolis was conceived to feel like a home. It’s a feeling that is apparent immediately upon entry: the reception, where beechwood partitions, millwork and furniture custom-designed by the architects set the tone for a welcoming lounge area. A fireplace burns in the corner, imbuing the space with warmth and intimacy. Large potted plants line the fully-glazed walls, bringing the lush greenery of the adjacent gardens inside to promote health and well-being. The ground floor is laid out much like a typical apartment, with a living zone, dining room, and outdoor patio.
The same home-like ambiance extends to the individual units. The fully-accessible one and two-bedroom apartments boast flexible open plans that easily adapt to the unique needs of each individual tenant. All thirty-five units in the complex have access to their own private terrace, which extends their living space.
Though it was an important tenet of the project to design units that would allow residents to retain their autonomy, there is no doubt that residential care can at times feel isolating. To counter this sense of loneliness, the architects took care to create spaces for residents to connect with one another throughout the building. On the ground floor, a cafeteria that looks and feels like a trendy restaurant makes for a thriving community hub, adjacent to a communal living space, gym and physiotherapy clinic.
On the fourth floor, a high-design private lounge offers sweeping views of the city, furnished with Rattan chairs by Spanish design icon Jaime Hayon. The building’s rooftop terrace could easily be mistaken for that of a luxury hotel, with a solarium and stunning infinity pool rounding out the five-star amenities.
In addition to programmed spaces, the architects also created more informal opportunities for interaction. Even the circulation spaces and access corridors, outfitted with benches and bay windows, are designed to foster meaningful meetings.
The architects didn’t just think about how residents would interact with the building, they explain that “a strong emphasis was placed on helping users to integrate, to the extent possible, within the locality and the urban setting.” Surrounded by green space, Vitápolis is itself built into the larger ecosystem of Toledo, and is served by the local health centre, municipal library, and civic centre.
The building’s design ethos is apparent even from the street. With the private terraces tucked away, horizontal concrete strips run along the main façade, giving the building a graphic quality and shielding residents from the sun.
Despite the many challenges involved in designing for the physical needs of seniors, the architects recognize that “quality of life is, first and foremost, about emotional aspects.” Indeed, the design serves all of these needs, allowing its residents to maintain independence without sacrificing their health. In doing so, Romero & Vallejo have ensured that Vitápolis is not just a space to grow old in but a space to live in.
Designed by Romero & Vallejo, Vitápolis offers a vibrant community where its residents can age with dignity.