Here is a quick first report from the Dining Project Steering Committee, convened by Marvell a couple of weeks ago, to assist in the design of the new second dining venue to be built up in the area currently occupied by the Ping Pong Room (and the unused kitchen behind it), the Blue Room, and some of the rooms beyond. Your reporter is excited both about the ideas that came out, and the process itself, which felt very constructive, energizing and empowering.
Its important that the meeting started with Marvell asking us all to step back to brainstorm about the goals we had in the design of the second venue. So, while we talked about concrete things, we did so in the context of what would really make a difference to our lives. The plan is to give these goals to the designers, so that they are guided by what the community wants, rather than design for design’s sake.
Here are some of those themes and the more concrete ideas that came out of them.
Building Connection. Perhaps most important of all (Marvell put it on the top of the reporting sheet) is the goal of creating a place that expands connection among residents, between independent living and Creighton Center residents, between residents and their families, between residents and non-residents, etc. The space, and related issues like parking, can make a huge difference to all these.
Flexibility. We need a highly flexible space that can be used for eating, meetings, presentations, and can expand (maybe by having the barrier to the corridor being movable).
24/7 Availability. A place that people use all the time. From night owl foods to light snacks to full meals at certain times. Finding a way to use machines to get food out, without staff at some times (wine dispenser like hotels now have in lobby).
Technology. Multiple screens for engagement and communication, including video conferencing with other communities, worldwide. Maximum flexibility in terms of conduits for future data sharing. Ease of check in and getting information on medal credit status (or equivalent after changes). Strong WiFi and charging stations.
A Sharing Space. Ways that community members can share — photos from vacation, achievements, etc, routinely displayed in multi-media.
Avoiding Fragmentation of Community into “Old Dining Room Gang”and “Second Venue Gang.” Design the space, the food, and the use of the space to draw in everybody.
Integration with Strategic Plan. Whether our plan ultimately focuses on an intern generational vision, an international vision, a broader local vision, a learning vision, a technology vision, an environmental vision, a research vision, or whatever (all totally up in the air right now) we have to have the flexibility so that this space can promote and serve the vision.
Maximum Food Variety. Keeping our culinary life varied is central, particularly as we attract younger residents and guests.
Design of Waiting Area and Flow. We need to learn from current bottlenecks and make the entry area a connecting place more than a waiting place. Sit down, chat, engage, learn, plan.
Human Connection Role of Staff. While technology can help manage all this, remember the wonderful role that staff play in getting residents talking to each other, engaged, and feeling useful and important. Think about how to enhance, rather than replace this. We want staff you see their jobs broadly rather than narrowly, like the wonderful Jodie and Anna do at the podium.
Building a Mock-Up. Given how critical it is that everybody gets a chance to “experience” the redesigned space before construction starts, maybe we should build a mock-up out of cardboard in the Auditorium.
Other Items: Opportunity to plan for composting of waste. Sustainability and energy. Fourth Floor Kitchen? Coats. Mobility devices. Parking issues for outsiders. Airflow. Arts room redesign. Fire Barrier redesign. Patio roof flexibility for light. Accessibility issues.
All the members of the Steering Committee would welcome everybody’s thoughts and ideas. Our next meeting is March 8. Here is the list of members: Marvell Adams, Chris Ramsey, Sara Case, Jim Giese, Anne Stone, Maja Keech, Mike McCulley, Pat Howard, Helen Lauck, Bill Lively, Anne McCulley, Barbara Bailar, and Richard Zorza, and from Kendal, Steve Bailey and Ben Butler.
Remember, as we get older, many of us live in anticipation from meal to meal. Others, of course, live in anticipation from Dining Committee meeting to Dining Committee meeting!
The way this meeting happened I regard as a very good omen for our community. It showed a quality of input and creativity from all our stakeholders that suggests that we are entering a truly exciting time as we follow similar kinds of processes for the development and implementation of our Strategic Plan.