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Southern Comfort: Citation of Merit winner WhiteStone–Linville Remodel, Greensboro, N.C.

March 22, 2012
by Gina LaVecchia Ragone
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Eugene R. Guszkowski, AIA, Principal, AG Architecture
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The WhiteStone Continuing Care Retirement Community was in a state of transition when AG Architecture, Wauwatosa, Wis., met with the Masonic and Eastern Star group to discuss its plans to launch a major renovation and repositioning. While its owners wanted to attract new residents—and improve the lifestyle of existing ones—the centerpiece of the 42-acre campus was a boxy, outdated clubhouse that neither enticed visitors nor created the sense of community that administrators and residents desired.

WhiteStone’s campus, like many CCRCs, evolved over time. It includes short- and long-term care centers, a large healthcare facility and single units for independent living. It was and is the clubhouse, however, that serves not only as the heart of the community, but establishes that all-important first impression. “It is the point of entry to the campus. As you wind up a curved driveway, the first thing you saw was this 1960s-era building that had no charm at all,” says AG’s Eugene R. Guszkowski, AIA, who oversaw the project.

The good condition of the structure saved it from the wrecking ball, but also presented challenges.“We had to be clever in terms of its use, but it also had to set the tone for further development,” says Guszkowski. The clubhouse redesign was also important in that it signaled the kickoff of a multi-phase independent living expansion project. “The biggest challenge of the project was working on a campus with a long history, one that has a lot of buildings from different eras, and now creating its first building in a major repositioning effort, and trying to tie all of the pieces back together.” 

Environments for Aging 2012 Citation of Merit Winners

With creative solutions to design and healthcare challenges, four projects inspired Environments for Aging’s annual design competition this year. A panel of 16 esteemed jurors—architects, interior designers, care providers and educators—evaluated the nominees for this year’s top honors.

We’ll be featuring a winner a day this week. We hope you’ll be inspired by these exemplary examples of environments for aging.

The nearly 22,000-square-foot facility was renovated—and impressively appointed—for just $2.1 million, or, only about $95 per square foot. In addition to a more impactful aesthetic, the owners and residents of the community wanted a place that would foster a sense of togetherness. To that end, AG created three floors of amenity-filled spaces designed to pull in residents from their individual rooms or homes. Whereas the original structure only offered an outdated lounge and library, AG worked with resident focus groups to come up with a plan for the new clubhouse that offered both residential and hospitality features that would truly make the clubhouse a destination. These include a coffee shop, game room, auditorium, arts and crafts room, activity room, library and a small restaurant. Each room features its own unique identity and a variety of furniture groupings to support different activities.

To reflect its Greensboro location, both its architecture and interior design now say “Southern hospitality.” The original building’s institutional interiors were replaced with a warm and traditional aesthetic. And while the color palette and finishes are in keeping with the traditional, the addition of clean-lined and modern furnishings and artwork keep it comfortable. The result is “a Southern, traditional look with a relaxed and eclectic twist,” explains Guszkowski. “The goal was to create an aesthetic balance that appealed to the current residents, and also the next wave of potential residents who will want a more inviting and casual environment. The size, scale, and appointment of the activity spaces create a home-like feeling that welcomes residents.”

Another important part of the clubhouse project was providing better access. Moore and his team came up with a creative solution: Lowering the building’s front grade to basement level eased access, while at the same time, allowed AG to create a multi-story, light-filled entry lobby. Moreover, this also allowed the WhiteStone to utilize a full one-third of the building that was previously unused because it was inaccessible and received no daylight. Finally, the drive to the clubhouse was modified to include a covered porte cochere, front door parking, and resident golf cart parking.

At WhiteStone, AG has proved that creative thinking and careful design can produce a dramatic, elegant and amenity-filled project on a relatively small budget.

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