Seattle, WA – Located just north of Seattle is Encompass Northwest, a 10,000 square-foot state-of-the-art pediatric therapy facility that is anything but institutional. Designed by Seattle-based Signal Architecture + Research, Encompass’s new center Incorporates adjustable color, light and transparency to create a space that is legible, gentle and welcoming to the children it aims to serve.
Project Name: Encompass
Studio Name: Signal Architecture + Research
Children brought to Encompass for therapy have varying levels of need, ranging from early learning and exercise programs, to full speech and language services, to motor learning therapy. When designing a therapy center, it isn’t enough to build the right amount of doors and windows–the building has to serve as a tool for staff and visitors. Framing the building in this way informed several key design solutions.
For example, the building’s interior programming is very legible, allowing children to feel secure in their sense of place. The main entry connects to the center’s administrative spaces, while providing easy access into the gym for children seeking immediate immersion in play. Therapy rooms are located a little further within the structure; colorful spaces ﬁtted with climbing walls and other features to inspire movement and encourage play. Several of Encompass’ therapy rooms are outﬁtted with color-control lights designed with Blanca Lighting, which canbe used both for general ambiance and therapeutic purposes.
An initial challenge for the design team was the site’s position on a ﬂoodplain. To solve for this, the architects raised the building ﬁve feet above the ground plane, surrounded by ﬂood mitigation landscaping. This elevation change provides for a gradually ramped entryway, slowly revealing more and more of the building as you approach. Large windows allow children to see the staff and therapists from the outside, as vice versa, the surrounding nature from within. Utilizing this series of simple and site-responsive tectonics, the team was able to integrate ideas of security and transparency into the building’s larger-scale relationships.
Encompass is a nonproﬁt, and this project was entirely funded by grants and donations–this means that adhering to the budget was paramount for the project success. The design team was able to collaborate with the nonproﬁt team to craft a design narrative and model for Encompass to apply to fundraising efforts, tangibly displaying to donors what their investment would achieve. The project was constructed within budget due in large part to intelligent planning, which included working with the contractor during preconstruction to address potential site challenges and advise on cost-effective building procedures. This integrated, collaborative process serves as a model for other budget-focused nonproﬁt projects.