Aging and Community Background


Thoughtful workers Happy workers


Eight teams took part in the Competition.  The teams -- comprised of employees from leading architectural firms in Milwaukee, along with School of Architecture students -- spent an intense weekend in early February 2007 the Architecture & Urban Planning Building on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, working feverishly to develop schemes for four sites located in Milwaukee neighborhoods—Sherman Park, Layton Boulevard, Brady Street, and Bronzeville. The teams’ work was informed by focus groups held in each neighborhood. In the spirit of collaboration, consumers, families, care providers, experts in aging, government officials, architects and other environmental designers were also invited to visit the School of Architecture and interact one-on-one with the competition teams, while they were working. To set the context for the competition weekend, internationally recognized geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, author of What are Old People For? gave a major public lecture on Aging in Community. The competition weekend concluded on Sunday afternoon with the eight teams’ presenting their work to a lively audience in a packed Engelmann Auditorium. Senior housing architect William Brummett and housing consultant Zev Paiss served as competition judges, recognizing those projects which they felt responded most effectively to five competition goals.


Program Guidelines

To encourage innovative ideas rather than formulaic solutions, the architectural program was open, providing general direction -- desired number of dwelling units per acre -- rather than room titles and square footages. Solutions were encouraged to represent “housing plus services”.

Housing Program: Housing could range from independent living residents to those needing some form of assistance. Units that flexed in response to changing needs were encouraged. The smallest site was requested to meet a density requirement of 60 to 90 units per acre while the remaining three sites were to meet a criterion of 30 to 45 units per acre. The minimum parking standard for housing was one car per unit.

Services Program: “Plus services” was open to each team’s interpretation of the needs of the site and the community. Fifteen to twenty-five percent of the area of the site was to be allocated for use by the residents of the site and the neighborhood. Each team had to provide a rationale for their proposed solution.  


Competition Challenge

The vision for the ideas competition is the development of inventive, replicable design concepts for senior housing and services that function as community focal points within each of four selected urban neighborhoods. To support this vision, the competitors were asked to address five key goals in their designs:

Create Opportunities to Age in Place/Community
The designed environment should support the desires of people to age in the familiar neighborhoods in which they have spent their lives. We can nurture people’s sense of being part a larger “community” with a sense of shared identify and mutual support. Future senior housing should be able to flex between assisted living and independent living to avoid unnecessary relocation.

Maintain and Strengthen Links to the Larger Community
Senior housing need not create elderly enclaves. Future senior living housing should serve as living communities where people of all ages have a place—where the young can learn from the experience and wisdom of elders, and elders can enjoy the vitality and exuberance of the young.

 Nurture Informal Social Supports
It will be increasingly challenging to offer social services for elders using only formal service providers. In the spirit of community, people of diverse ages can support one another both socially and pragmatically. For example, house bound elders can trade with single parents—exchanging child care for grocery shopping or home cooked meals can be traded for instructions on how to use E-mail.

Provide Barrier Free Settings
Environments should be created to be accessible for all users—including those who are challenged with mobility, dexterity, or sensory/ cognitive processing.

Foster Energy Conscious and Sustainable Design
Environments need to be created with recognition of energy conscious design and consideration of sustainable products and processes. To encourage adaptive reuse of buildings, one of the selected competition sites is currently occupied by a school building which could easily be retrofitted for new uses.

For More Information Download the Following Files

Download Original Flyer for the Event

Information about the Four Sites

Architectural Program Given to Competitors

Aging in Community Booklet (PDF file to come)


Sponsors Statement

(Text to come)



Because this was an “Ideas Competition” awards were given – not to any of the eight designs –but those teams which best met competition goals.  Awards were given in the following categories: 

Creating Opportunities to Age in Place
Engberg Anderson Design Partnership
Bronzeville Neighborhood, 6th Street and Walnut Street

Judges Comments:
We were particularly interested in the den mother idea as well as the inclusion of adult day care on a site that seemed to have the mass to support it. Usually adult day care is a financially losing proposition, but we are seeing more and more of that being tied with housing as a way of offering supportive services.

Sustainable Design
Eppstein Uhen Architects
Sherman Park Neighborhood, Fond du Lac and 38th Street

Judges Comments:
This design preserves a vast majority of the historic school building, which is certainly something we felt was important. The other aspect was that the car had a very low impact and there was a real emphasis on wellness, both on the healthy person and healthy environment with green roofs while addressing a compact site adjacent to heavy traffic.

Fostering Community Integration
Plunkett Raysich Architects
Bronzeville Neighborhood, 6th Street and Walnut Street

Judges Comments:
The way all of the elements were so delicately mixed created a real tapestry for a variety of ways to interact. The whole hummingbird concept of really finding out the needs of the larger community and plugging those places into the site, so not only do you have a rich variety of options for the residents, but also a lot of reasons for people to come to the site.

Nurturing Informal Support
Zimmerman Architectural Studios
Brady Street Neighborhood, Van Buren and East Pleasant

Judges Comments:
What really was impressive about this project to us was the Kiva notion, not literally the kiva, but the symbolic center of exchange. While all of the projects included retail and commercial exchanges, this project included a higher level of meaningful interaction that was both a educational and spiritual experience.

Wow Award for Incorporating Multiple Ideas
AG Architecture
Layton Boulevard Corridor Neighborhood, 27th Street and National Street

Judges Comments:
We were searching for a category that fit this project, but it really fits into a lot of different categories. We really appreciated the fact that the architects looked back to the history of the site as a transit orientated district and then brought that back into their solution and strengthened it with a bus stop. The scale of the project too seemed reasonable—residential yet commercial with the inclusion of assisted living located right at the center of the site.


Speakers Biographies

Dr. William Thomas
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Bill Thomas is an internationally known physician. He and his wife Jude, co-founders of the Eden Alternative™ and the Green House Project™, two radical alternatives to traditional nursing home care, have dedicated their lives to transforming the culture of aging. Currently, Dr. Thomas is working on a new form of alternative housing for older adults called Eldershire; an intergenerational housing option that empowers residents to collaborate in the design and ongoing development and management of their communities. Dr. Thomas is a noted author on quality of life issues for elders, as well as the recipient of numerous awards including a prestigious 2006 Heinz Humanitarian Award.

William Brummett, AIA and Zev Paiss

Image of Mr. Brummett and Mr. Pais





William Brummett
is president of William Brummett Architects, P.C. in Denver, Colorado, a full-service architectural design, consulting and research firm specializing in the creation of innovative housing and care environments and products for those with special needs. Mr. Brummett received a national fellowship from the American Institute of Architects and the American Hospital Association to study assisted living nationwide. His book, The Essence of Home: Design Solutions for Assisted Living Housing which won a 1997 Polsky Prize for Innovation and Design Communication from the American Society for Interior Designers describes the results of that

Zev Paiss is a principal in Abraham Paiss & Associates, Boulder, Colorado, an independent business that helps cohousing communities get started across the United States. He is a national spokesperson for the cohousing industry, known for his expertise in the areas of group process, grass­roots marketing, and community building. Mr. Paiss was the founding executive director of The Cohousing Association of the United States, an organization he ran from 1998-2002.

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