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The Embassies: creating home beyond walls for every age
Illustration by Gizem Winter

November 2023 – George Lee

Theme: Home

The Embassies:
creating home beyond walls for every age

This Curious Life magazine sat down with Jan Garde, an innovator and visionary determined to redefine the ageing experience and to revolutionise community living through his groundbreaking concept: The Embassies.  

Jan Garde

Photograph by Robert Winter

Jan’s journey started with a poignant childhood memory — his very first visit to his grandfather’s retirement community. “The experience left an indelible mark,” he shares, a hint of sadness and perhaps a hint of fear in his voice. “It wasn’t just a place; it lacked the essence of home. Sterile, clinical—devoid of life,” Jan recounted. The memory was and is vivid. “The thing I cannot get out of my memory is the smell,” he says. “It wasn’t necessarily a bad smell, but it did not smell like a place where people should live. It smelt like a hospital. It felt like everyone should be screaming, ‘get me out of here’. I know I was inside.” 

It was this singular experience that served as the catalyst for Jan’s mission. “I wouldn’t want anyone I care about living in such a place. I don ‘t want that for me. I fear getting old in that environment and I don’t want anyone I am even barely connected with to live in a place  like that,” he shares. Driven by a fervent desire for change and a personal desire to find an alternative solution for himself and family and friends, Jan embarked on a year long journey into retirement communities, care homes, and assisted living facilities around thew world, speaking with the people who lived there. “Everywhere I could,” he stressed, recounting his exhaustive and exhausting exploration. He also spent time with individuals who, like him , where scared about moving into such places. He wanted to understand the underlying reasons behind their trepidations. 

Designing attractive retirement communities isn't just about creating a beautiful restaurant.

“As I delved deeper, it became evident that the challenge extended beyond aesthetics,” Jan shared. He painted a grim picture of his findings—realities that echoed across all the spaces he visited. “Sure, we could make retirement communities aesthetically pleasing—a design challenge indeed, but it isn’t as simple as building a nice restaurant” he noted. However, his discoveries went beyond surface-level enhancements. 

Photograph by Robert Winter

“During my travels, I visited care homes and engaged in deep heart to heart conversations,” Jan revealed. “One recurring theme emerged—the absence of diversity in age groups,” he explained. It was a poignant revelation—individuals hesitated to transition into these spaces primarily due to the predominant presence of older adults. 

"Home isn't confined to walls and a roof, it's an emotion."

However, his research also unearthed deeper systemic issues. “The economics of care facilities is a dire situation. It’s nearly impossible to turn a profit,” he said, shedding light on the industry’s struggle. Private companies, burdened by the need for profitability, faced challenges in sustaining these establishments. Jan also shared the bleak situation in Germany where he is based, where an alarming number of illegal care providers had emerged, leading to an epidemic of bankruptcies. 

As Jan talked to more people, his commitment to crafting a better alternative strengthened. “We needed a seismic shift,” Jan emphasised. His vision extended beyond creating visually appealing environments; it aimed at fostering a culture where individuals eagerly anticipated their future—a community built upon happiness and purpose for all. 

Illustration by Gizem Winter

The fruits of his research have blossomed into The Embassies, an innovative place designed to be more than just a living space, catching the attention not only of investors from around the world but also a growing waiting list of people eager to move in. The concept has also caught the imagination of a number of key collaborators such as the acclaimed designer Ilse Crawford.  

With The Embassies Jan has set forth to redefine the very concept of ‘home.’ “Home isn’t confined to walls and a roof, it’s an emotion,” he asserted, sharing profound insights derived from meticulous research. 

Illustration by Gizem Winter

There are three key elements to The Embassies — the three pillars he calls them. At the core of The Embassies lies a dedication to fostering a sense of community. “The ground floor is not just a space; it’s a hub for communal activities,” Jan explained. These public areas—boasting bakeries, farmers’ markets, and open spaces—serve as bridges, inviting both residents and the neighborhood to converge and connect. The aim is to dissolve barriers, making everyone feel an integral part of the vibrant community. 

The second pillar of The Embassies encompasses versatile living arrangements designed to cater to various needs. “We offer living spaces for short-term stays or permanent residency,” Jan revealed. Whether it’s a month-long visit to embrace a new grandchild’s arrival or a permanent relocation, The Embassies cater to diverse lifestyle preferences, ensuring a seamless transition between temporary and permanent living. 

Illustration by Gizem Winter

Jan’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm as he delved into the essence of The Ambassadors Club, the third pillar. “It’s a club open to anyone who brings something unique to the community,” Jan says. The club thrives on diversity—its members span different ages and cultures. The goal is to create a space where thought-provoking conversations flourish, fostering connections and promoting physical and mental well-being across generations. 

Success is seeing diverse ages engaging, creating new adventures together.

Jan’s ambition goes beyond the confines of luxury living where The Embassies is starting. “We want to democratise our learnings,” Jan revealed. He envisioned a future where their innovations would impact lives beyond exclusive communities—a desire to broaden their reach. 

I ask Jan, “what success looks like?” He says he loves this question as it is so clear in his mind. “Success, for me, is witnessing a diverse age group of individuals engaged in dialogue, forging new adventures together.”  

As our conversation ended, Jan’s fervor remained unwavering. His passion being palpable, Jan’s commitment is rooted not in financial gain but in a profound personal calling. The Embassies, with its three essential pillars, stands as a testament to Jan’s relentless pursuit of a community where every individual find community, purpose, and a sense of belonging—a vision poised to redefine communal living and inspire generations to come. 

In closing, Jan left a strong impression—an epitome of passion-driven entrepreneurship. His story was not just about a project; it was a testament to the transformative power of a singular vision—a vision poised to shape the future of communal living, transcending boundaries and inspiring generations to come. 

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