The Un-forgetful Land

Yuyue (Vivian) Zhang

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Collage 1
A dialogue between the people with Alzheimer's and the surrounding community

“What does it feel like?”

“Like constantly searching for something in your pockets. First you lose the small things, then it’s the big ones. It starts with keys and ends with people.”

Fredrik Backman, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive disease, the real cause of which is still unknown. Memory loss is considered to be the main symptom of Alzheimer's, which may lead to a persistent decline in thinking, behaviour and social skills, simultaneously progressively losing autonomy and spatial control.

According to the Alzheimer's Disease International’s 2022 report, the overarching goal of Alzheimer’s-related design is to support people with dementia to live in their own homes for as long as possible to optimise safety, comfort and independence.

Adopting this position, this thesis explores two design strategies—domestic space modifications and an urban day care centre.

Living Conditions and the mental world of people with Alzheimer's

The Alzheimer’s day care centre attempts to build a community for those with Alzheimer’s, care providers and the surrounding public in densely populated areas. The design develops a new sensory language to talk about the effect of Alzheimer’s Disease through the sensory stimulus system and therapeutic living environments, and in turn, talks about whether the temporality of architecture can reinforce the perception of time and space for people with Alzheimer’s. The aim is for a therapeutic environment that interacts with people physically, psychologically and spiritually, increasing community connections and reducing stigma.

World Map of Dementia-related Projects and estimation of five sense performances on each project
Concept collage
Concept Collages (vertical system, sensory design, natural elements, materiality)
Time diagrams of people with Alzheimer's and staff
Section of urban day care centre
Axometric drawings (accessibility, scent-walk route, water route)
Plan with detailed materiality
A comic tells the story of a day in the urban day care centre from the perspective of a person living with Alzheimer's-Jay Li

As another preferred option for people with dementia to remain living at home, the domestic space modification strategies generate possible solutions for improving the living conditions by means of a series of ‘multi-sensory furniture’, maximising autonomy and wellbeing through an enabling environment.

An exploration of scent intensity and spatial orientation; A comic showing how home modifications (the scent room & the sewing facade) could form a multi-sensory living space

This thesis is developed from a large body of research and references, coupled with my personal experience of living with my grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Architecture takes sensory memory as a narrative thread, employing materiality, reconstruction, form and spatial sequences to translate the understanding of each sense into the architectural language of space; to contemplate the possibilities of olfactory spatial orientation, encouraging a new form of social interaction.