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July 28, 2016

Two senior communities, 1,370 miles apart, reflect their distinct settings

  • Issaquah’s Timber Ridge and Minnesota’s Trillium Woods differ in style but draw inspiration from nature to create community and draw residents outdoors.
    Rice Fergus Miller


    Good senior housing and assisted living offer residents the opportunity to live in dignity and grace in a community setting.

    Two retirement communities —Trillium Woods outside Minneapolis and Timber Ridge at Talus in Issaquah — do just that. They have the same program and the same operator (Life Care Services of Des Moines, Iowa), but each offers a unique approach and a different location-specific architectural interpretation.

    Trillium Woods

    Trillium Woods is a master-planned continuing care retirement community in Plymouth, Minn. At the heart of the project is a focus on efficiency and comfort for residents, and amenities that contribute to an energetic lifestyle.

    The community functions as a village where residents have access to many life-enhancing opportunities. There’s a fitness center with personalized wellness plans, a rehabilitation center, a library, a game room, restaurant and cafe, a cocktail lounge, spa, barbershop and salon, chapel, and an auditorium for large events and gatherings.

    Phase one is complete, and at full build-out, the community will offer 314 independent senior apartments, 28 two-family homes, and 90 assisted living/skilled nursing and memory care suites.

    The architectural context within which Trillium Woods sits is the prairie: rolling hills separated by forests and lakes. These features provide the inspiration for the architecture, creating the canvas from which a new community is created.

    Photo by Troy Thies Photography [enlarge]
    The prairie-style architecture at Trillium Woods offers a modern look for residents who want something different.

    The 40-acre site sits on top of a slight rise in the landscape where the building grows out of the ground, a nod to the “back to nature” movement highlighting the healthful benefits of the outdoors.

    The first impression is the low sweeping lines of the entry. Rather than entering the building directly on axis, one is dropped off undercover then taken along the building facade to the lobby entry, where one sees through the building to a forested hill beyond. All of the spaces in the building are light-filled, and focused on the territorial views.

    Daylight and views, coupled with the use of indigenous materials, create a memorable experience for residents and visitors alike.

    Offering “something different”

    Our design team worked with prospective residents and community members in design focus groups. These meetings were instrumental in guiding the project design concept.

    Prospective residents were seeking “something different” for their retirement setting. They wanted a modern community designed in a regional architectural vernacular that would fit the land.

    The result of these meetings led the design team to develop “a modern interpretation of Prairie Style architecture” that emphasizes home, hearth, light and sustainability.

    Trillium Woods was designed to invigorate those who live there, to create opportunities for vigorous community building and activity. Once in the lobby you are presented with options to socialize, including a grand stair and large fireplace. Outside are sun-filled porches, landscaped terraces and a large fire pit.

    Similarly, the interior spaces flow together and are open to each other, offering many chances to socialize. The circulation is purposefully arranged to make people interact. A great example of this is the sitting area at the fitness center entry, a gracious circle in the main corridor affords residents a chance to interact before and after working out, or just the opportunity for spontaneous interaction.

    As a continuing care retirement community, we know many of the residents who chose to live at Trillium Woods will age in place. They will create community, make friends, possibly fall in love again. The overriding objective of this community is for the built environment to foster a gathering of people coming together to contribute to the growth of others.

    Photo by Doug Scott Photography [enlarge]
    Timber Ridge has outdoor spaces where residents can gather in comfort.

    Timber Ridge

    Perched on a hilltop in Issaquah, Timber Ridge is a master-planned continuing care retirement community.

    Its design draws on natural amenities of the site and environmental elements of its Pacific Northwest setting: wood, plant, stone, water and filtered sunlight.

    Its first phase opened in 2008 and includes 184 independent-living apartments, 37 skilled nursing beds, a dining room, and a spa and wellness center. A second phase, to be complete late 2016, will add more independent-living apartments as well as assisted living and memory care. Amenities will include an auditorium, swimming and exercise pool, and expanded exercise/fitness facility.

    Many areas of Timber Ridge provide residents a unique environment to socialize. The library’s fireplace and sitting area is where residents enjoy their morning coffee with the newspaper. The lounge area offers residents a gathering place before and after dinner.

    The Cascade dining room is a space in which staff, residents and visitors find great enjoyment. The terrace area provides outdoor dining with beautiful vistas. It is not uncommon to find residents soaking up the sun, enjoying a good book or conversation in these venues.

    Set amongst 100 miles of nature trails, residents are invited to get out and enjoy the environment. In the warmer months, a walking group meets and explores the surrounding hills, hiking and enjoying the scenery. The winter months promote cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fireside relaxation.

    Outdoor amenities at Timber Ridge include a putting green, croquet lawn, bocce court, and gardens where residents can grow their own vegetables. The east side of the common area has a large active terrace at the clubhouse and health center levels.

    Even though the site slopes over 40 feet from west to east, accessible site access was achieved at multiple locations for both staff and residents.

    The large and abundant windows provide a lot of natural light and maximize views, which in turn brightens people’s spirits during the Pacific Northwest’s rainy season. Wide, welcoming halls and dining rooms allow for great views and are also extremely accessible.

    Other features include mailrooms in which the mailboxes are not too high, resident apartment doors that offer both swipe cards and hard keys, and parking that accounts for disabilities. All areas are under one roof, lighting is good and even, and flooring materials are nonslip and easy to walk on.

    Green strategies

    LEED strategies were implemented in both communities. While some may cost more in one area, they reduce cost in another.

    For example, high-efficiency skin such as windows and insulation reduced mechanical load on the building. Sourcing locally reduced shipping costs, and local artists were used for signage and tile work.

    Simplicity in detailing was key to keeping costs down while resulting in a beautiful, soft final result. Water- and energy-saving strategies resulted in significant savings for both. Rapidly renewable, recycled and local materials were used throughout.

    Both communities, in the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest, offer seniors an opportunity for a high quality of life. The focus on the enhancement of resident centering and the intentional continuous interaction of space and people will keep the communities vibrant.

    Mike Miller is a senior principal at Rice Fergus Miller. He has been active in the design of senior living and healthcare facilities nationwide for the past 35 years.

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