ARCHITECTURE WITH A PURPOSE. HELPING SENIORS LIVE BETTER.

BY: 

FRANK FUSARO, HANDEL ARCHITECTS

Our architectural firm, Handel, had never designed a senior living space before. So when Greg Smith from Maplewood Senior Living approached me about the Inspīr Carnegie Hill project, I was thrilled. Greg talked to us about his vision to shatter the mold of the average senior living communities out there. And I was hooked.

I think Greg gravitated to Handel because of our experience in the hospitality space. With Inspīr Carnegie Hill, he challenged us to redefine what a senior living experience could be—a place where residents and their families could gather and create new memories together, supported by an environment and a hospitality staff that is second to none.

Inspīr Carnegie Hill isn’t about building another skyscraper. It’s about fulfilling a need—enabling people to live in this great city no matter what their age.

- Gregory D. Smith, President & CEO, Inspīr

It’s more than architectural. It’s personal.

My father had just gone through an end-of-life experience. So it meant a lot to me to be part of the conversation as to how we could create a comfortable place for seniors to continue to live a full life. For inspiration, Greg talked to me about the three programs for care* that would be available at Inspīr Carnegie Hill. He talked about the all-inclusive Memory Care Program for residents with dementia or other cognitive impairments who need a place to be secure, programming that’s personalized, and a highly trained staff. Then there’s the all-inclusive Enhanced Care Program for residents with chronic complex care needs who may also need ongoing skilled nursing care but don’t want to move to a skilled nursing facility. And third, a traditional assisted living program for residents who need assistance with personal care and are looking for support that can be completely personalized to their needs. Greg painted such a clear picture of the future residents of Inspīr Carnegie Hill that it was like they were there with me as we designed this great building.

We care about cultural enrichment.

Often, as people age, they tend to withdraw from social and cultural experiences. So with Inspīr Carnegie Hill, we wanted to give people the opportunity to stay close to the things they really love to do—through cultural enrichment experiences—whether it’s museums, shopping, or just simply enjoying Central Park.

We connected with the outdoors.

It became clear to us within the first 10 minutes of the very first meeting with Greg that the ideas for Inspīr Carnegie Hill were going to be about connecting the building and the people to the outdoors, to daylight, to nature. We talked a lot about what that means to people and their lives, and how it enhances quality of life, and that’s where we started.

Throughout the building, we have lots of community spaces that connect with the outside. One of my favorite spaces is right in the center of the building. The SkyPark is a little oasis in the sky, hovering over Second Avenue. There’s a beautiful terrace and a sun porch to the south, fragrant plantings of sage and lilac and roses, plus spectacular views of the East River—it all comes together to create a very special place.

We were open to open space.

Community is just so important to us as humans—even more so as we age. And so unlike other properties you see in Manhattan, we wanted to maximize open spaces to connect, rather than simply maximize the number of units. We created more space for gardens and landscape, areas for sunlight to stream in, for residents and staff to engage with each other. As an architect, you don’t get to do those things unless you have a really enlightened client. Here, we have a pretty special client in Inspīr and Maplewood Senior Living.

LEED Certification. It’s not by accident.

To us, as a practice and as a rule, sustainability is at the core of what we do. And to that end, we’re pursuing a LEED certification, but inherent in all our work is the desire to think sustainably.

Every detail. For every resident.

I loved working with Greg and his Maplewood team because they truly care about every detail. Together, we agreed the architectural concepts would be based on what’s really important when you near the end of your life. It’s not about having a lot of “stuff.” It’s about what’s essential and meaningful. We focused our design efforts on simplicity—even in the façade—which is the actual structure of the building. And behind the structure is a set of enormous glass walls that show the soul of the building.

Then, as you move inside, the simplicity of the building’s layout makes wayfinding direct and easy for the people moving throughout the space. And when it finally did come to finish materials, everything had a distinct purpose. Whether it was wood, stone, or color choices, we looked at them through the eyes of our residents to see how it could enhance their wellness and well-being. Even the furniture selection echos the exterior of the building, evoking a feeling structure and support.

Ultimately, Inspīr Carnegie Hill is an experience. An experience like no other, and certainly like no other senior living community.

*Inspīr Carnegie Hill is pending approval from the State of New York, Department of Health, for the following licenses: Adult Home, Enriched Housing and Assisted Living Residence, with Enhanced and Special Needs Assisted Living Residence certifications.