John Wesley Gardens
John Wesley Gardens, residential aged care community, has been an important part of the Geebung landscape in Queensland for over fifty years. Recently, in consultation with residents, staff and locals, John Wesley Gardens underwent a complete rebuild that stands as testament to Wesley Mission’s relationship-based Eden philosophy of care.
Mark Trotter, Director of Fulton Trotter Architects, explains that “John Wesley Gardens is an upside down model. It’s all about the resident sitting at the top of the tree.”
“We started working with Wesley mission in 1970. This is the third major facility moving to an apartment model and this rebuild is the current point in a journey with Wesley Mission to break down the idea of aged care as an institution,” he says.
“Our design reflects the fact that John Wesley Gardens is a community within itself, responding to and engaging with the local community surrounding it,” he shares.
The original site consisted of an array of cottages spread across the site and an old chapel facing the street. The redesign connects residents with each other and their community more effectively with two storey residential apartment buildings designed to house-scale and collected together giving a texture that reflects the local suburban architecture down to the variation in roof colours and set-backs.
Layers of Engagement
The World Health Organisation says loneliness is one of the biggest challenges for anyone living over the age of 75. So how can a physical environment promote connections?
This was addressed by Mark Trotter through collaboration with Wesley Mission and user groups by building levels of engagement and privacy into the overall design of the site.
Fronting the street, the original restored chapel and a modern commercial café and gallery are open to residents, the public and staff. This transition zone also includes a function space, meeting rooms and administration building.
Architecturally this is a civic area that is an accessible destination for residents where they can meet with friends and family and mingle with people living in their surrounding neighbourhood.
The overall site-design aims to connect residents with their community and the residential buildings and apartments also respond to the need to alleviate isolation.
Wide doorways that can be closed for privacy allow residents to see people go past their apartment and this helps them to feel connected. Large picture windows look out onto gardens, connecting residents with the outdoors and verandas are accessible for fresh air and sunshine.
Residential buildings are broken up into groups of 18 apartments with small communal spaces including a lounge and dining room. Residents can also extend their social engagement if they choose to by connecting with an adjoining dining room catering to a further 18 apartments.
As the name suggest, the gardens are an integral part of the John Wesley Gardens rebuild.
Tall Poinciana trees sit as iconic landmarks at the entry points along the street and towards the front of the site, exotic, old-fashioned plant species sit in classical symmetry in a formal garden. After parking, a visitor can meander through the ‘Stroll Garden’, a park-like space with open lawn areas, and winding pathways.
Closer to the residential apartments sits a community garden including an interactive courtyard with play areas for children, a vegetable garden and a BBQ area providing for outdoor functions and picnics.
Also in close proximity to the apartments is the ‘Secluded Garden’, established for residents and guests who can wander through the cool, shaded leafy environment and discover private nooks and seating areas.
From Little Things ….
Mark feels that the reason John Wesley Gardens has been such a successful project and has been so well received by the client and residents is due in part to subtlety.
“It’s often the little things that can make the difference between feeling like you are at home or in a hospital,” he shares.
“It’s the discrete security lines that allow a resident to leave his or her home and be in a safe, quasi-public space that reflects real life. Basement-based services, a relaxed corridor system and natural light and ventilation that while not being obvious features, are integral to introducing a sense of normalcy and calm,” Mark says.
He continues, “We were conscious of providing residents access to pleasant, safe outdoor deck areas so we installed discrete security screens, similar in appearance to the familiar lattice work seen on older-style Queenslander verandas.”
“An aged care residence can function efficiently without feeling like an institution and should reflect the philosophy of care,” says Mark.
This is a belief echoed by Annie Gibney, Director of Residential Aged Care for Wesley Mission Queensland.
“The John Wesley Gardens rebuild mirrors our needs and provides an environment that allows ‘rich life to occur’ and this fits perfectly with the Eden philosophy of care that we embrace.”
“There is nothing in the design that says ‘this is aged care, this is a nursing home’, says Annie
“Everyone has been considered in the John Wesley Gardens rebuild including residents, staff and the local community. It is a place where people feel that they are a part of life and not separate from it,” she says.
Photo: John Wesley Gardens Aged Care Community Development | Photographer: FKG Group and Lucy RC Photography