The Center at Belvedere
Architecture firm: Bushman Dreyfus Architects
Owner: Senior Center, Inc.
Location: Charlottesville , Virginia
In Charlottesville, Virginia, the 47,000-square-foot Center at Belvedere stands as the physical representation of a nonprofit’s 60 years of work in empowering seniors and setting them up for successful, independent aging. From its perch on a hillside, the forward-thinking center welcomes members into 100 weekly programs, including classes and symposia focused on the visual and performing arts, health and fitness, and travel. As a vital community resource built through significant stakeholder input, the center is a sustainable model for healthy aging that can be replicated across all communities.
"Every aspect of the site, program, and building reflects a strong desire to be comfortable, safe, and life-enriching for its users. This building is not a classic senior environment and works hard to break stereotypes for an older adult use–building."- Jury Comment
Since 1960, the client had operated a much smaller senior center in several different locations that was thriving because of the support of individuals and foundations that underwrote its operations and membership. To broaden its impact, the client launched a campaign in 2009 to build a new center, hoping to reframe the discussion around “normal aging.” The new center’s design and construction effort spanned a decade and was steeped in community engagement.
The new center welcomes members and guests through its two-story portico. Its layout, with two wings that radiate outward, is easily understood as they move into an atrium that serves as the building’s social hub. It features informal seating options, a travel office, and a coffee shop that invites members and guests to pick up light dining options and cocktails to enjoy on the center’s shaded back porch.
"The robust offering of activities and level of layout and detailed design for elders is exceptional."- Jury Comment
As a new prototype that demonstrates how similar centers could better serve members and the larger community, the center accommodates all dimensions of wellness. It includes amenities such as a fully equipped fitness center and exercise classrooms, a performing arts auditorium, meeting rooms for grief counseling, a health clinic, and more. The team was tasked with ensuring the center was as age-friendly as possible, so visual, tactile, and mobility considerations informed the overall design.
“Every aspect of the site, program, and building reflects a strong desire to be comfortable, safe, and life-enriching for its users. This building is not a classic senior environment and works hard to break stereotypes for an older adult use–building,” noted the jury. “The robust offering of activities and level of layout and detailed design for elders is exceptional.”
Due to its strategic siting in the county’s urban ring, the center boasts easy access to numerous walking and biking trails that lead to downtown Charlottesville. Its location allowed the client to successfully lobby the region’s transit authority to implement a new bus route that delivers members and guests right to the center’s front door.