The Cordwainer is an innovative 54 unit freestanding memory care community in Norwell, Massachusetts. The 50,000 square foot complex is situated in a tranquil, wooded expanse and reimagines the memory impairment care model by taking design inspiration from nature to enhance resident health and wellness. Its focus is on support services for the growing population of older adults with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The facility is notable for its learning-based programming and its use of biophilia, an approach to architecture and interiors that strives to enhance human well-being through greater connection to the natural world.
The firm’s design reflects an evidence-based approach that recognizes how light can significantly impact dementia by improving mood and reducing depression and psychoactive symptoms common to the disease. The resulting interior spaces provide a bright, airy atmosphere that uses natural materials like wood and living moss walls and prioritizes thoughtfully modulated daylight. Key solutions include an expansive skylight above the building’s centrally located two-story atrium sensory garden that serves as a focal point of the community’s care program. To maximize daylight penetration deep within the building’s core, a series of large clerestory windows are located in common areas, and three lightwells are spaced at equal intervals along the community’s north-facing facade, providing diffused natural lighting to a series of activity rooms on the second floor.
The residential units are programmed to the south and north for soft lighting from large, oversized tilt and turn windows. The west- and east-facing common lounge and dining rooms benefit from daylong light penetration through floor-to-ceiling glazing. These design solutions for boosting natural light all work together to provide therapeutic sensory stimulation, helping ease the agitation many dementia patients experience throughout the day.
The design includes a range of engaging spaces – dedicated activity rooms, workshops, informal living rooms, and a performance center – each supporting the community’s proprietary dementia therapies programming called The Learned Environment, which incorporates activities involving art, music, and foreign language to stimulate cognitive function. To facilitate engagement, The Cordwainer’s community-oriented design features open plan living and dining rooms on each floor, surrounded by residential suites comprising 47 single units and seven companion suites with private bedrooms. The building’s boulevard-style corridor, elevators, and high-contrast interior color scheme ease wayfinding routes for the residents, fostering accessibility to and from apartments and ancillary spaces.
Minimalism and Midcentury Modern converge to create a harmonious environment for the residents. Emphasizing functionality and clean lines, a priority is placed on a tranquil color palette and natural elements, accented by custom millwork and curated artwork to create a refined aesthetic. A double-height living wall defines a serene entry with organic forms and hues of varying earth tones. A central fireplace invites socialization while statement lighting softly illuminates the lobby.
Resident amenities include the second level’s rooftop terrace, a wood workshop, a barbershop and salon, a fitness center, a private visitation suite for families, and performance and rejuvenation centers. The landscaped courtyard offers safe access to an outdoor sensory space, a critical component of memory care design.