Design Award Entries

The Gardens of Somerset, a P. Allen Smith Inspired Living Community

Gardens of Somerset is a senior care community, designed to create a unique, home-like environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle. With input from an internationally known horticulturist, the community emphasizes a 'farm-to-table' approach, connecting residents to nature through gardens and outdoor spaces. The design of the site and structures reflect the culture and history found in Louisiana that creates a connection and an event center brings the community to residents.

Project Statement

The idea for Gardens of Somerset originated from a provider seeking to create a unique and special experience for seniors, their families, and staff, emphasizing a healthy lifestyle. With input from a renowned horticulturist and TV personality, the goal was to design a home-like environment full of energetic spaces with a strong connection to nature. The team developed this vision into a functional and innovative community design.

The Gardens is a pioneering concept in senior care, incorporating a 'farm-to-table' approach to design and site layout. This approach gives residents, staff, and visitors access to fresh food grown on-site. A large utility easement on the northwest side of the property became the production garden, complemented by smaller viewing gardens scattered around the community. The large greenhouse allows residents to engage in gardening, with senior-friendly work surfaces, sitting areas, and a temperate climate. It is strategically located next to the event center, which hosts classes on topics like canning food, raising vegetables, seasonal plantings, and occasional social events.

Located in an established residential neighborhood in Sterlington, Louisiana, The Gardens of Somerset blends seamlessly with a mix of single-family homes, creating a co-generational community that supports aging well. Connectivity, wellness, and independence were key design goals, transforming traditional spaces into agrarian and social environments.

The team drew inspiration from the rich architectural history of Louisiana for the site and building design of the complex. The main building incorporates inspiration from the large stately homes scattered throughout Louisiana to provide a real ‘presence’ and ‘front porch’ for the site. The site is arranged to be very compact, very walkable, as this is similar to the older neighborhoods of the area with smaller lots, sidewalks, and long narrow homes. The Independent Living Cottages are designed around the ‘Shotgun’ concept of the typical southern Louisiana home of the past. The design team envisioned a very small scale feeling for a rather large-scale project by locating the different buildings very close to one another to make the community very walkable and also limiting the height and size of buildings and amenities. The ‘gardens’ are always in view both from inside and outside to create the feeling of a very livable community through an ever-present nature connection, also the greenhouse further enforces the concept of biophilia to aid with wellness.

The Event Center, originally a single-family house on the property, was renovated to become a community hub. It includes a large kitchen, gathering spaces, a clinic, pool, and dressing rooms, serving as a popular spot for socialization among residents, staff, and families.

The main building houses 83 apartments, offering one and two-bedroom units with specialized services for memory care, assisted living, and independent living. Many apartments have private patios and access to interior courtyards. The building complies with ADA guidelines and features a variety of amenities, including a large living room, salon, theater, multiple activity rooms, two solariums, a PT gym, fitness rooms, and a spacious dining room with a bar and private dining area. The kitchen is designed for preparing fresh vegetables from the garden, enabling residents to participate without disrupting regular operations.

Adjacent to the main building are 20 independent living cottages, each approximately 1,400 SF with a single car garage, two bedrooms, a large kitchen-living area, two full bathrooms, and ten-foot ceilings. These cottages are located near the farm area and the street, encouraging residents to partake in community activities.

The grounds feature walking paths connecting to the adjacent neighborhoods, multiple fountains, large covered patios for grilling and gathering, and numerous garden areas for relaxation. Gardens of Somerset successfully combines functional spaces with respect for modern design, creating a unique living space for seniors to enjoy and thrive.