Housing for elderly people with autism

The atmosphere is homely and welcoming at Seniorhuset in Hinnerup outside Aarhus. Ruth is sitting on a bench outside her own flat, watching what’s happening in the communal living room.

Troldtekt, Hinnerup
Photo: Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, architect

The four residential units at Seniorhuset and the adjoining facilities have been positively received by the residents, who all suffer from autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and who used to live in sheltered housing nearby. This development project, which is supported by Realdania, a member-based philanthropic organisation that supports projects in the built environment, is the first time that efforts have been made to create special facilities for senior citizens with autism, and the initiative is expected to lead to a greater understanding of the particular needs of these people.

The architect Mette Wienberg was invited to participate in the competition, which evolved into an experimental process of building models and engaging in considerable dialogue. Mette Wienberg explains that she and Line Frier have worked a lot with the spatial layout, materials and colours throughout the project. These are all elements designed to support the residential facility as a safe, intimate and personal space from where you can join in the communal living as you wish. The residents have windows overlooking the corridor, while the communal day rooms have large glass sections that break down the boundaries between the rooms. The entrance to each flat is set into a niche with a bench and a plant, and which functions as a safe transition zone in relation to the other residents.

White Troldtekt acoustic panels have been chosen for the ceilings in the communal areas, where they promote a good sound environment, which again creates a feeling of closeness and calm for the senses. The ceilings are broken by finely detailed skylight shafts, which create a positive atmosphere together with the green colours. About the choice of green, Mette Wienberg says: – Green is essentially an uplifting colour, and here it has been used both inside and out. The colour works well with the organic spatial layout, and strengthens the connection between the indoor and outdoor environments – supported by plants that create a harmonious whole.