UW Haring Center Reopens to Students

Date Posted: 03.20.2024

The University of Washington Haring Center for Inclusive Education recently celebrated a grand reopening, welcoming families and staff back following the significant renovation effort led by the progressive design-build team of Lease Crutcher Lewis and Mithun.

The Haring Center has been a long-time leader in early childhood learning as an interdisciplinary hub for direct education, professional development, and research. The Experimental Education Unit (EEU) serves children of all abilities from birth to kindergarten, including those on the autism spectrum, and other families not served in mainstream education. Throughout its history, Haring Center researchers have conducted critical work in teaching practices for children with developmental disabilities that have shaped the fields of special education and inclusive education.

“To have a brand-new building that is designed for us, with children and families first, and our researchers and professional development staff first is – it gives me goosebumps,” shared Haring Center director Ilene Schwartz. “This was so individualized to the uniqueness of our program and the uniqueness of our needs.”

The impact of this comprehensive remodel is visible from the building’s landscaped entry sequence, which now incorporates both stairs and a wheelchair-accessible ramp to welcome students, staff and visitors of all abilities. The 42,300 sf center accommodates 140 students in ten classrooms — two kindergarten, five preschool, one for Project DATA (preschool age), one for toddlers, and one for Early Support (infant and/or toddler). Shared activity areas were updated to better serve current programs and uses, and include a large multipurpose learning/event space, a cafeteria for school-aged children and a gymnasium for recreation and physical therapy. New materials, colors and environmental graphics evoke playfulness and joy throughout the building.

Two central play courtyards feature mounded and open-ended play environments including hills with varied height and steepness to support physical therapy activities, natural wood play elements and synthetic turf to optimize wheelchair accessibility, comfort and flexibility. An additional playground for kindergarten students is located adjacent to the gymnasium, and features a play field and advanced climber.

The original facility had smaller, isolated workspaces that were combined to improve visual connection and workflow efficiency through a shared environment of open workstations, enclosed offices, focus rooms for meeting with colleagues and families, and a wellness room. Dynamic learning and gathering spaces encourage frequent collaboration between the center’s early learning, research and development teams, supporting both the Haring Center’s specialized mission and its broader role within the College of Education’s programming.

“Designed over 50 years ago, the Haring Center was a purpose-built building that no longer aligned with contemporary early childhood education or workplace needs,” said Mithun partner Walter Schacht. “This renewal, which retains the character of the original mid-century modern structure, represents a significant and lasting investment in the mission of the center as a unique resource for the university and Seattle-area families.”

Health and wellness upgrades were centered as a priority for the building that has been in operation for over a half-century. Significant updates, such as replacing the HVAC system and roof, modernizing the entire electrical system, rewiring for cohesive internet and Wi-Fi access, and reinforcing the building’s foundations, beams and columns, helped improve occupant health, safety and security. The transformative project, on track for LEED Platinum certification, features abundant daylight and views to the adjacent Montlake Cut to provide biophilic design benefits to students and staff.

This renovation was made possible by a generous $30 million donation from the Sunderland Foundation. The progressive design-build project was led by Lease Crutcher Lewis with integrated design by Mithun, including architecture, interior design and landscape architecture. Additional design team members include MIG/SvR, civil engineer; 4EA Building Science Inc, building envelope; Swenson Say Faget, structural engineer; Studio Matthews, environmental graphics; and William Brown Landscape Architect, irrigation. LEED documentation was provided by O’Brien360.