HKP Architects uses knowledge of community to inspire designs
Thursday, February 27, 2020
HKP Architects, a full-service architectural firm in Skagit County, has designed some of the most remarkable spaces in the Pacific Northwest including the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. The firm’s impact can be felt by children playing at the Children’s Museum of Skagit County, families visiting nearby resorts, students in primary and secondary education, tribal members attending community events, tourists enjoying local art and museum exhibits, and families enjoying the comforts of home. Founded in 1952, HKP Architects has a regional reach with a focus on creating architecture that uplifts communities. Brian Poppe, a partner with the firm, said, “We are committed to our clients and to the environment to create architecture that matters - architecture that is responsible to the environment, communities and users, that adds beauty and meaning to their surroundings.”
Being an active member of the community has enabled HKP to better understand the needs of people who utilize the spaces they design. “HKP is a part of Skagit County’s local communities. We are part of the “feedback loop” for our clients and their customers, users and faculty. HKP and our clients, together, are an integral part of the communities that we all live, work, and build for. Being local helps HKP in making cognizant design decisions that provide a positive impact to the communities that we all know and cherish,” said Poppe.
We sat down with Brian Poppe to learn more about the philosophy behind HKP Architects and their role in Skagit County.
Q: Why is it important for HKP to be involved in the community?
A: We feel it is important for every business to be involved in their own community. It’s a cooperatively beneficial cycle - as the community is strengthened, so too are local businesses, and vice versa. Our employees live and work within our local communities. They often indirectly, and sometimes directly, benefit from the positive impacts our projects have on their respective communities. Our founder, Henry Klein, wrote that “(architecture) heals the visual wounds we inflict on ourselves.” Those connections to our communities help us better understand what is needed and what is wanted and the impacts of our collective choices.
Q: What HKP projects would community members recognize?
A: The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is a signature project for us combining environmental stewardship, education, sustainable architecture, and great design. Operated by North Cascades Institute in partnership with the National Park Service and the City of Seattle, this residential campus is nestled on the shores of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park. The project recently passed its 15-year anniversary and is a hub of discovery for all ages in one of the wildest, most biologically diverse landscapes in North America. Activities include many school and youth programs, a graduate program and classes for adults, teachers and families.
We also have a long-standing connection with the Children’s Museum of Skagit County. Julie Blazek has served as the Project Architect for all three incarnations, first when it occupied a vacant storefront in downtown Mount Vernon, followed by a move to the Cascade Mall, and recently its Grand Opening at the Outlet Mall. The new space is now open and features exhibits highlighting STEM activities, climbing structures and a beautiful new art room, reading room, celebration room, semi-truck, main street, train exhibit, sensory areas, water feature, music room, refreshed crane and more. We have been with them every step of the way, creating a unique and valuable experience for children, parents, and staff.
Beyond those projects we have partnered on many successful local projects with Skagit Valley College, Skagit County, the City of Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon School District, Burlington-Edison School District, and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
Q: We heard you’re expanding! What has led to your expansion?
A: A mix of new and established clients are coming forward with new projects in our established markets: private residences, civic and tribal buildings, and planning. We’re seeing signs of growth and reward as we expand our reach into other project types, including commercial and hospitality markets.
We are also expecting an uptick in Passive House development as a growing opportunity for our practice and in educating clients and owners how this highly efficient and sustainable way of building can apply to all types and forms of buildings—and save a ton on energy costs.
We hire locally and also recruit people from outside the area. When people join our firm we find that they do so because they want a different way of life than what they would find in an urban environment. Not having a significant portion of your waking hours spent in traffic is a nice intangible benefit. They’re realizing the value of that time and how it can be better spent with friends, family, and enjoying the outdoors.
Q: Skagit County definitely offers access to outdoor recreation. What are some of the other things you and your employees enjoy about working in Mount Vernon?
A: Aside from the favorites that are a part of the Identity of Mount Vernon—the Riverwalk, Co-Op, and breweries that surround us—I think what HKP really enjoys are the people of this community. There is something really special about doing work in a great place, for a great cause, and most importantly, for great people.
Q: What goals do you have for HKP?
A: To continue to diversify our market mix, balancing state-funded projects with locally funded civic projects, tribal projects, private residences, and increasing our work in hospitality and affordable housing work.
We are also broadening our focus on sustainable architecture and will be looking for opportunities to bring Passive House Certified construction to all types of projects, from private housing to public buildings. Passive House design provides for high performing buildings looking beyond LEED to create buildings that are not only energy efficient, but also comfortable, healthy and affordable.
Q: HKP continues to make a positive impact on the community. What can the community do to help you achieve your goals?
A: It’s important to remember that “Buy Local” applies to professional services too. When local agencies look to local professionals for their projects, they not only keep the tax dollars within the community but they also strengthen those businesses and companies so they can secure work outside of the community, bringing in tax dollars from other jurisdictions.
The best expert may not be “someone from out of town with a slide projector.” The best consultant for local work may very well be your neighbor whom you’ve grown so accustomed to seeing as part of the community that it’s not apparent the expertise they have for bringing new solutions to familiar issues.
Community members, through their local agencies or Boards, have the perfect opportunity to connect HKP Architects, and our expertise and knowledge, to their projects.