LBAbstract

Volume 4  |  March 2019

LBAbstract

Volume 4  |  March 2019

A Q&A with Charlie Schmidt

Director of Design

With over 28 years of experience in the profession of architecture, Charlie oversees all aspects of Lantz-Boggio’s design department. His practice is focused on a collaborative design process for a diverse range of project types within the Senior Living and Care Industry. Charlie also leads the Lantz-Boggio innovation team. The team focuses on creative thinking and design concepts that best respond to the values and preferences of new and coming generations of Seniors.

Q: What is something that is often misunderstood or not fully appreciated in the design of Senior Living and Care Communities?

A:  One thing we focus on in the design process is the idea of place. Design which fosters a “sense of place” has a huge impact on our psyche and directly relates to satisfaction levels among residents and their families.

Yes, we create Senior Living Communities across the country and yes, this demographic needs many of the same amenities, unit sizes, as the community at large. What keeps it fresh and new is the fact that we are meeting the wide variety of functional needs on a different site, within a different community, and often utilizing a different design vernacular. We want to make each building belong to its physical site and architectural context so that the next generation of seniors feel like they still reside in their same community. This makes them feel safe and secure, even though some of their life circumstances have changed with age. We have the opportunity to mitigate some of their changes by creating places that comfortably fit in and feel like they belong to their unique location.

“We should remember that architecture is a very powerful tool to help residents feel at home and function normally.”

If we can accomplish a sense of normalcy through the “sense of place” that we create, we can allow residents to celebrate their life’s accomplishments to this point and take advantage of new opportunities for camaraderie and new life experiences in their community.

Q: What is it about architecture that inspires you to come to work every day? ?

A: What motivates me on a day-to-day basis is the process of architecture. I’m constantly observing the “process” as it’s happening so that we continually improve our work, and in doing so we advance the quality of our drawings and our buildings. As designers, we strive for the best solution to each individual problem, which invariably is the result of a very collaborative process. I like to say that I don’t care where or who the idea comes from, as long as it is a good one.

 

We embrace the idea that a collaborative process means knowing how to give and take criticism so the end result is truly better, because it is the sum of the best input we can bring to bear. Sometimes, the residents are our best critics. Being a critic doesn’t necessarily mean you always bring solutions, but rather, keen observation to identify and articulate where things are working well and where they need to improve. Great critique is focused and analytical without jumping ahead to quick fixes.

Q: What has changed in the profession of architecture since you began your career?

A: The biggest change in profession of architecture is how technology has sped up the design process. We’re able to generate design ideas very quickly which allows almost immediate reaction to the design – the feedback loop is much shorter. For example, we can quickly show you what it will feel like to walk through a space now in a 3D rendering. This makes the process of how we respond to design ideas and provide critique even more important, because compelling imagery can distract from the fundamentals – the blocking and tackling – that still has to happen to put together buildings that function on a high level. Once we have tested and agreed to the “bones” of a project, it is relatively quick to see what it looks and feel like.

This technology has also been amazing for potential residents during the sales process. Having a virtual reality tour of the new home they are considering can be exciting and tremendously comforting, as well as beneficial in closing the sale.

Q: Is there an experience you’ve had personally or with a client/residents that changed the way you view your work?

A: This industry is constantly changing. Each new generation of seniors come to our communities with a very different set of expectations and lifestyle preferences. Personally, I am working with my 83-year-old father who is a Senior Living candidate, but still lives alone in a large house in a small town in New Hampshire. I’m learning first-hand how important staying connected to community is to seniors and their reluctance to large scale changes in their lives. What becomes very real is the significant emotional side of the equation. We need to be sensitive to the emotional messages we are communicating throughout our environments – they are as important as meeting physical needs.

Q: What is the key to great architecture for Senior Living Communities?

A: There are many keys, but in the end, it is a balance between functions, efficiency and the many factors that contribute to making a unique, vibrant, and welcoming home for people. It takes an unrelenting desire to understand the values, desires, and preferences of the residents and their families. Secondly, we need to assure that the programming and design is carefully conceived in conjunction with the operations program. It is important to remember that architecture is only part of the total response that forms a successful Senior Living Community.

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