DESIGN 2011 Merit Winner: Merrill Gardens at The University, Seattle, Washington
Brian Runberg, AIA, Principal • Runberg Architecture Group PLLC
Congratulations to all Citation of Merit winners!
The evolution of Merrill Gardens at The University is a tale of two generations. Set in the established Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle, the 2.5-acre building site, comprising both seniors housing and market-rate apartments, is but a few blocks from the University of Washington’s main campus. With the intermingling of such markedly different community residents—both student and aging citizen—already taking place, bridging the generational divide was an unavoidable certainty for this project.
“As the ownership and developers started putting the project together, more and more parcels became available,” says Brian Runberg. “The program grew and was redefined a number of times to the point where there were nearly an equal amount of market-rate apartments as there were senior housing units.”
Photo courtesy of Merrill Gardens
While it is easy for student and senior to regularly interact, the layout of Merrill Gardens at The University thoughtfully separates all occupants into specific locations. For instance, the retail shops and apartments line the active, commercialized main street. Because the western half of the block faces a quiet residentially zoned property, it made sense to place “the more passive” seniors housing units there, Runberg says. Everyone is then linked one way or another by the central courtyard, which is critical to the paradigm shift inherent to this multigenerational campus.
“Eighty is the new 70,” Runberg says. “Seniors are living longer not just based on modern medicine but on how people are being more active. I think living in the right environment helps lend to that.” And for the students? Well, being exposed to their elders must certainly be valuable. Access to that kind of wisdom can’t be found in any classroom.
Kevin Kolus wrote for I Advance Senior Care / Long-Term Living when he was an editor. He left the brand in 2012. He is now senior communications manager at Cleveland Clinic.