A call for fresh thinking: homes for a ’baby boomer’ generation

01 December 2012


Architecture has never been a predictable profession. In 2012, my assignments have included sketch designs for a grand house overlooking Lake Victoria, helping a small London-based arts organisation to work out what kind of new premises they need when their current lease expires.

So I was delighted when the RIBA Competitions Office pulled me away from our more normal fare - a housing project in Newcastle, some eco-houses in Hampshire, a listed building refurbishment in Colchester - and asked me to act as the adviser for an architectural competition (Re-imagine Ageing) to be launched by McCarthy & Stone to discover what kind of housing the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation would want to grow old in.

I had come across McCarthy & Stone and had a vague image of the kinds of developments they produce. While they have and are producing some great schemes, new thinking is always vital and so it is great that they are reaching out to architects for new ideas.

McCarthy & Stone have done their homework into what the baby boomer generation (those born between about 1942 and 1955) might want, and discovered that they were quite picky, and that moreover they had a tendency to transform every market they touched.

Hence this competition, which was launched this month and which will produce a winner by April 2013. In the first stage, dozens of teams will submit ideas based on a brief carefully honed by McCarthy & Stone and RIBA. We will then shortlist five teams for a second stage, who will add detail to their initial proposals. Following interviews we will select two runners up and a winner who may then have the opportunity to progress the proposal further. Full details of competition timetable are available. 

We have an excellent McCarthy & Stone site in Bishops Waltham, 2.38 acres of brownfield scrapyard, which offers the competing architects an excellent blank canvas to try out any number of new ideas. I am hopeful that we will see some imaginative thinking about the fit between growing older and the kind of place you might want to live in: how it will work, what spaces it will contain and what they will feel like, and, of course, what it will look like. I hope also we will get some fresh thinking about that prickly issue of privacy versus community, and that living sustainably will be in the front of everyone’s minds.

It promises an exciting outcome, and for me as an architect it will be enormously interesting being on the client side of the table for a change.

We are delighted to have Robert leading on this project for us and will forward his updates as this exciting competition progresses.

To see photos of the site visit go to our Facebook page.

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Other Comments:

patricia sanyal “I am a 61 year old woman who likes to swim between three and five times a week plus go to the gym on a regular basis. I am looking for a retirement apartment where I have access to these facilities. I also paint large, bright and bold acrylic paintings so it is also important for me to have somewhere to paint. I'm just another fussy baby boomer I guess!”