Encompass is an organization on the edge between healthcare and education, offering access to early learning and therapeutic services that not only teach children about themselves and the world, but also set them up to be more effective learners in the future. Encompass sets an early lifetime precedent for how it feels to learn and grow in an institutional setting for the building to set a positive tone was paramount. Situated in a floodplain, Encompass was raised five feet and surrounded by flood mitigation landscaping. Instead of stairs, which can feel imposing and tend to separate those not able to climb them, a gradual ramp leads visitors to the single-story entry.
Large windows allow children to see the staff and therapists from the outside, and the surrounding wetland buffer and trees from within. The design team pushed the second story volume to the right, cutting the visual weight of the massing in half. The lobby is directly connected to a family room for first meetings‚ upon the first visit, the child isn't asked to go deep into the building. Beyond the lobby is the motor room, dedicated to movement and play. Passing this room first means that, depending on how the child is presenting, therapists may stop or even stay for a session supported by movement.
The 12 ceilings throughout are stretched in the motor room with exposed trusses, and the hallways are extra wide, allowing them to be used as a tertiary therapy space. A wide hallway leads visitors further in, ending in a floor-to-ceiling window creating a sense of continuation in the deepest part of the building. On the left side are four therapy rooms with custom lights that can be set to any color, as the ability to control the color of the room can feel grounding to a child. On the right side are therapy rooms with two-way mirrors, used for supporting and teaching parents. This can be a louder, more emotional place. They are the farthest from the door, the most protected, doing some of the hardest work.
The site was chosen very deliberately, located in the local wetland habitat called Kimball Creek, part of the rich habitat corridor that serves the Snoqualmie River. Locating the building and parking outside the wetland buffer on a previously disturbed part of the site not only protects the existing ecosystem, but additionally maintains riparian habitat in a bird corridor and meadow used by the Snoqualmie Valley’s beloved Roosevelt Elk herd. In between the building and the wetland, a detention area was created to extend the quality and scale of natural systems on the site. This deference to nature not only highlights Encompass’s care for the natural world, it reinforces a human connection to nature that can literally be seen and felt - as a client, staff, or visitor.
What was needed in order to serve the community and programming was more than what the capital campaign was able to raise and the design team was charged with fitting the scope of the project within the budget. Because Encompass is both a permanently staffed space and a landing point for satellite staff, the footprint of the permanent offices was made to fit, and other staff spaces were optimized so they could serve more uses, including open desks, a meeting room that doubles as a lunchroom, and so on. The team salvaged equipment, and used carpet overages cleverly.
The Encompass staff has frequently attested to the design team that the building feels purpose-built, with the children’s perspective at the center of the program. One of Encompass’s Behavioral Health Managers remarked that: Every room in this building is purpose-built. It is more than a clinic. It is built with the families and clients in mind. Supported by the new building in 2022, Encompass served over 2,500 individuals across an 1140 square mile radius; a total of 375 families were supported with early learning programs, and nearly 7500 in-person pediatric therapy sessions were held. The client’s goal was to create a flagship building to anchor a wide range of therapeutic and early learning programming, as well as offer a place for its many off-site staff to root.
The organization’s mobile therapy unit is at a different elementary school in the community every day of the week, and the new facility serves as a base camp for this extension of operations. The building has also amplified Encompass’s ability to accommodate volunteers, topping well over 400 community members in 2021 and growing. The community room, accessible from the front vestibule, offers ample meeting space for social skills groups, parent workshops, and community to gather. The additional room for programming also allowed Encompass to offer more workshops to resource the community, including workshops on lead poisoning prevention and race and culture in the classroom. Before the building was constructed, Encompass staff would often rely on the generosity of the local businesses for physical space.
The new building allows Encompass to return the favor. Instead, architecture is leveraged in this project to support a child as they enter a place that can feel frightening, or induce stress. The building shows a restrained and responsive design. Many of the design moves are so informed by the therapeutic process that they almost go unnoticed until you engage in therapy in the space as a caregiver or child.