Behind the Curtain: Designing “Project OCX”

Many projects start with discussions to crystallize the goals and expectations for a design build.  But this (confidential) global company’s goals were clear to the design team from the onset.

The “Project OCX” effort kicked off under the guide of the following objectives:

  1. Create an office environment that was functional for 2009 yet flexible enough to accommodate growth through 2014.
  2. Establish a sense of community that encouraged collaboration, particularly because of the autonomous nature of the workforce.
  3. Integrate innovative space identity that reinforced the strong corporate brand — but without being too literal.
  4. Configure the workspace to assist migration from private offices (of the previous location) to a predominantly open-office environment.
  5. Exhibit the company culture via a highly sustainable office space that provides a vast amount of natural daylight for all employees.
  6. Achieve at least a LEED-NC Silver Certification — though Gold Certification was the ultimate target.

So, the designers set to work creating a unifying design concept that achieved all six goals for each floor of the building, which this Fortune 500 company owned.

Today, we can explore the space more fully thanks to those preliminary goals and the design team’s efforts.

The volumetric spaces serve as wayfinding tools to define areas of activity and gathering while planes guide the user to those areas of activity. One single, dominant ceiling plane — referred to as the “Canopy” — serves as an organizational tool to create anchor points and placement for these community areas. The “Canopy” serves as a dynamic, unifying element to direct traffic throughout the space by providing streamlined organization to the circulation, space allocation, and function throughout the space.

To accomplish the goal of functional flexibility, the design team needed to develop a floor plan concept that would be practical for their current user counts for 2009 — but also adapt to their growth projects for the next five years through 2014.  So, to avoid the feeling of the space being sparse until it reaches its full capacity, the designers dispersed numerous informal meeting and seating areas throughout the space, which also is populated with hoteling stations.

To circumvent empty offices, the designers chose to not install walls around offices, but still build the infrastructure to accommodate walls when needed. In the short-term, that created more informal seating areas. And, once the office is ready to house a new employee, the walls can be added to accomplish the private office space.

Designers addressed the concern of extra ancillary furniture (once the space was to full capacity) by establishing a furniture strategy so that each piece of furniture in the 2009 plan was accounted for in the 2014 plan, as well. This way, no piece of furniture would go unused.

Many departments within the organization are autonomous and don’t require much inter-department interaction in their daily operations. Therefore, the space plan had to create a sense of community in order to foster communication and collaboration.

So, the designers co-located areas for conferencing, pantries, and mail to be accessible  off the elevator lobby on each floor. This layout naturally guides users to circulate through the space to those areas where they have the opportunity to interact with others.  Plus, by pushing the circulation for each floor   to the perimeter of the building, the designers increased infiltration of activity into the work areas — which also allows for natural light to penetrate the space.

As the project came to fruition, the design team had to consider one last creative element: the client wanted the design to reflect an established corporate brand without taking a literal approach with the corporation’s logo or colors.

So the vision for this space was one that reflects the global, high-tech reputation and capabilities of the organization. It makes visitors and employees feel that they are in a highly secure environment, but is nevertheless welcoming and comfortable.

A natural pallet of whites and varying shades of grey form the foundation of the design. Lively green accents and wood tones bring freshness, energy, and warmth to the space. The simplicity of the subtle color palette combined with clean architectural detailing formulates a modern-day feel while remaining warm and inviting, resulting in a refined “techie” space that aligns with the evolving workspace design expected of today’s modern office environment.

Erin

Erin Orr, CPSM, is the former Strategic Marketing and Communications Director for DC-based Fox Architects and now is the Marketing Director at the Virginia Spine Institute.

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