The future prospects for Alzheimer’s disease look bleak. In developed countries, much research is being done into the origin of the disease, but there is very little progress. At the same time the number of cases is increasing dramatically. The cause of this is ageing. There is proportionally much less research being done into the present and future living conditions, than the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mission statement
The number of Alzheimer homes is likely to multiply over the next decade, given the massive increase in patients being predicted. In addition to the well-tried prosthetic approach, an Alzheimer home should ideally contain three components: healing architecture, a more human approach to resource management and leading edge electronic surveillance and artificial intelligence.

The aim of this applied research into ‘Alzheimer and Architecture’ for the health care sector is to provide insights into ‘care architecture’ regarding accommodation facilities for this specific health care sector; Alzheimer institutions, or home stay environments. We have to take into account the various types of provisions, requirements, issues and legislation relating to health care, as well as the various building typologies and associated requirements, so that these insights can be translated into safe environments.

The growing inter-cultural societies also make other demands on the design of health care institutions and home stay environments. The changing perspectives on the care needs of Alzheimer patients also influences the design concept.

People live longer and stay healthier longer in absolute terms. The elderly want to control their own lives and that includes being able to continue living in the house where they have often lived for years, and feel at home. The right environment for an Alzheimer’s patient can facilitate their mental responses while improving their physical health. However, the opposite can also be true. In residences where the setting is counterproductive, mental and physical conditions can deteriorate. How do you translate the sometimes-conflicting interests of the care provider and the patient into a sustainable and wholesome design?

What became clear is the vulnerability of dementia patients. Alzheimer’s affects so much more than just distortion of memory. It is the disintegration of all structures and patterns that make up our lives, a point where all components become entangled, diffusing the overall composition. To develop an appropriate narrative for future living conditions of Alzheimer’s patients is to take this vulnerability into account.

What does a safe environment of an Alzheimer’s patient look like in the future? With this research Henri Snel, architect, lecturer and PhD researcher would like to contribute to the discussion on the disease in general and generate possible solutions for improving the living conditions of Alzheimer patients in the future. There is a close collaboration with (scientific) specialists in the area of: dementia, Alzheimer’s, psychology, health and care, music therapy, haptic (tactual senses), architecture, interior architecture, art and design. Through this integrated approach the research results and commissions are worked out as a balanced whole.

He proposes an investigation into ‘Alzheimers and movement’ and ‘haptic architecture and tactile senses’ from an architectural perspective. It is very important to move your body, especially for people suffering from Alzheimer’s; it stimulates their cognition, it stabiles their ‘day and night rhythm’, it reduces pain because of movement and it creates an natural fatigue. For people who are not able to move so much, it is very important to eat healthy food and especially to chew, it activates their brains! I believe that the Alzheimer patient needs a more sensory related space. The patient often loses contact with the outside world, they become more and more dependent on their primary senses. This implies the need to restore a more intimate relationship, as they are thrown back to sensorial perception as communication.

Ashley Montagu, anthropologist and humanist, once wrote: ‘the skin is the oldest and the most sensitive of our organs, our first medium of communication, and our most efficient protector. Touch is the parent of our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. It is the sense that became differentiated into the others, a fact that seems to be recognized in the age-old evaluation of touch as ‘the mother of the senses’.

Haptic architecture is sense triggering. Architecture articulates the experiences of being in the world and strengthens our sense of reality and self. Alzheimer patients especially, need bodily experiences so as not to feel alienated and confused but to create a safe environment that can still enrich everyday life.
Personal background
Henri Snel was confronted with Alzheimer’s disease almost two decade ago when his mother was diagnosed with the illness. He has since become engaged with the illness and its consequences. This resulted in a series of research projects into the living conditions of Alzheimer’s patients from his professional Architectural viewpoint, often involving students from different educational institutions and different (scientific) specialists in cross-over collaborations.


Significant secondary activities alongside the research into Alzheimer’s and Architecture 
September 2016-present
PhD candidate VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences and Department of Psychiatry and VU University Medical Center with the topic Alzheimer and Architecture.
January 2018-present
Member of the Amsterdam Research Institute of the Arts and Sciences (ARIAS)
November 2017-present
Member of the Board of the Landelijk Platform Odensehuizen (LPO) 
September 2016-present
Graduation tutor at the Academy of Architecture, Amsterdam
August 2015-present
Preceptor at the UvA / VU. De Bildung Academie is an additional academic platform covering that what existing universities do not stimulate enough: the focus point is the attention on personal development of students and the promotion of their social responsibility. Apart from scientific knowledge and analytical skills we need empathy, imagination and requires an ethical framework to find a way in the rapidly changing world.
September 2016-present
Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. Tutor Architectural Design
January 2015-present
Socratic dialogue coach. The Socratic method focuses on the value of dialogue (a shared understanding is constructed by collaborative dialogue) for questions that have no obviously right or wrong answer, and it assumes that people already have the answers they need within them and that all they need is to be challenged to look deeper and longer in order to discover them
September 2003-September 2016
Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. Head of Inter-Architecture and lecturer research and Architecture
September 2014-present
Member of the Board of the Odensehuis, Amsterdam
September 2014-December 2016
Henri Snel and Caro van Dijk are responsible together with Cordaan and the Creative Industries Fund for the research on ‘the art and science of dementia care’ in collaboration with six interdisciplinary teams consisting of scientists, health care professionals, manufacturers and designers
September 2013-December 2016
Member advisory art committee AIDSmonument
June 2013-present
Advisor various health authorities in relation to dementia
September 2013-September 2017
Chairman advisory committee Architecture at the Creative Industries Fund
November 2011-2012
Guest Professor at the Nola Hatterman Institute, Paramaribo, Suriname
September 2011-2013
Guest Professor at the the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design, Halle, Germany
October 2010-present
Member research group with research topic: ‘Alzheimer and Architecture’ of the Professorship Art & Public Space (LAPS), Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam
January 2010-June 2015
EMMA TV, Amsterdam. The department of inter-architecture has been working since 2010 with Emma TV. We make every Wednesday together with other volunteers internal TV programs for children from 6 to 12 years, often the kids have a serious chronic illness
September 2009-present
Academy of Architecture, Amsterdam Visiting critic and tutor graduation students
September 2001-present
snel-architecture, founder of the office for Architecture and Interior Architecture


Socratic Dialogue training, a philosophical method in which participants work intensively together in brainstorming sessions.
University of Amsterdam. Didactic grade for Universities of Applied Sciences
Academy of Architecture, Amsterdam. Architecture: Master of Architecture (MArch)
Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. Interior Architecture: Bachelor of Design (BDes)


Recent publications
Healing Spaces For a Better Life, interview with Henri Snel in the Hedonist magazine about Alzheimer and Architecture, 2017
Henri Snel was one of the collaborators of the book ‘Active Design in Buildings’ by BETA-office, commissioned by the Municipality of Amsterdam, 2016
CrossoverWorks #4 and an interview with Henri Snel, look also at: Federatie Dutch Creative Industries, 2016
De Architect over Evidence Based Design met een bijdrage van Henri Snel (Dutch), 2016
Insight series #8 (read the book on issuu): Hacking Healthcare, 2015
Insight series #7 (read the book on issuu): Dementia friendly neighbourhood, 2014
Essay bijdrage van Henri Snel aan de Hedy d’Ancona award, 2014 (Dutch)
Essay contribution from Henri Snel on the Hedy d’Ancona award, 2014
Insight series #6 (read the book on issuu): (Re)Thinking Le Corbusier, 2013
Insight series #5 (read the book on issuu): The transformation of a snoezel corridor, 2013
Essay contribution to the book ‘Manuscript’ from the author Prof. Dipl. Ing. Axel Muller-Scholl with the topic: ‘The haptics of water’, 2013.
Insight series #4 (read the book on issuu): Haptic installations, 2012
Insight series #3 (read the book on issuu): Urgent matters through space, 2012
Insight series #2 (read the book on issuu): A haptic future, research on 24/7 care with dementia in Paramaribo, 2011
Insight series #1 (read the book on issuu): A short look into your future, who is afraid of Alzheimer’s, 2011
A research on soliDNA, on fixed space, non-moving space that is flexible in itself, 2009