Sun City Palace Tsukaguchi near Osaka, Japan is not your ordinary senior living facility. Instead, thanks to interiors by San Francisco-based BAMO, it feels more like a 5-Star hotel. "The design must discreetly respect the needs of senior residents without reminding them of their limitations," explains Gerry Jue, the firm’s senior principal and co-founder. "The design must be non-institutional, residential, and dignified in feeling, comfortable, and of the highest quality."
Jue and his team are no strangers to the quality of Sun City. In 17 years, they have completed seven projects for the company, and have four others on the boards. For this "destination" Continuing Care Retirement Community in the suburban city of Itami, they wanted a look of tranquility and richness. A limited palette of base materials prevails—oak paneling, traditional Japanese plasterwork, mocha-colored limestone flooring. Elsewhere, individual spaces are set off by special colors and materials such as custom carpets, flower petals within glass, and fabric wall panels. The highlights? According to Jue they are commissioned artwork by Takeshi Kawashima and Hirotoshi Sawada, amongst other artists, along with custom designed light fixtures (an oversized handpainted Japanese paper lantern, capiz shell chandeliers), as well as a glass-sided modern tea pavilion that sits within the central courtyard reflecting pond.
Yet the project didn’t come without its challenges. Six hundred units had to fit in three towers while maintaining southern exposure for all units (a mandatory sales requirement in Japan) and maximizing open landscaped areas. "The project had to mediate between an unsightly hospital and a mundane condominium block on one side, small scale houses and a public park on the other sides, in an uninspiring suburban setting," says Jue. "The solution was to organize the towers [three mid-rise ones] and public spaces around a large central courtyard, with controlled views to lavish surrounding gardens."