According to Aristotle, “They who are to be judges must also be performers.” This may explain the motivation for such extensive programming prior to the design and realization of MulvannyG2 Architecture’s new Bellevue, WA, facility. Following the merger of two firms, MulvannyG2 made the decision to find a new space to house employees previously on either side of Lake Washington. Designing a space for the combined staff of approximately 225 proved that being your own worst critic (while difficult) can lead to the most ideal office environment.
“We spent a good portion of time up-front programming this space,” says André Bellerjeau, associate, MulvannyG2 Architecture, Bellevue. Tapping into the brains of employees (everyone from the president to administrative staff) enabled preferences on furniture, storage, conference rooms, and seating to be shared, as well as concepts about what MulvannyG2 Architecture is all about. It was essential that the space merge the two firms into one office and define the culture, brand, and personality of the unified company.
While existing offices grew smaller and smaller, MulvannyG2 was providing its architectural services to Hines on a Bellevue office complex known as 112th at 12th. It didn’t take long for MulvannyG2 to realize that the location of their new office had been right under their noses all along. “At the end of the day they realized, it’s a great showcase for them to be in one of their projects,” says Lisa Picard, project manager, Hines, Bellevue, WA.
Bellerjeau explains, “We had a great client with Hines – now they’re our landlord.”
Ultimately, the three-floor office would bring together sensibility and style in a way that engaged clients and inspired staff. Taking cues from the geography, colors invoke a spirit of the Northwest and provide a timeless look. “A designer’s challenge is always when you put a lot of money into a space you want it to be a long-term vision. We don’t want to be trendy and put up this beautiful space and in two years have to repaint or tear it down,” says Bellerjeau. “We’re going to be in this space for a very long time.”
The three-story space with its fifth-floor entrance de-fines the company and just what it’s capable of – great design with a sensible price tag. “We built the space for a reasonable fee and our clients have responded very well to that,” Bellerjeau says. Off-the-shelf materials were just one way that MulvannyG2 kept costs in line with the budget. Concrete and cork floors, gypsum board, MDF, recycled timber, and exposed metal studs and HVAC equipment provide a vocabulary of construction and a means to create a unique space without a lot of expense.
With a roster of clients that has the firm working on facilities from warehouses to high-end retail, MulvannyG2 made sure that the Bellevue office would incorporate materials that are native to all types of projects. Bellerjeau explains it best: “We needed our space to really reflect: 1) our sensibility to budget and a sensibility to the clients that help make us who we are; and 2) we needed to say something about our design capabilities.”
Timeless design at a reasonable cost may sound boring – however, the space is anything but. Curved surfaces lend a sense of fluidity and the open plan workstation layout increases synergy and collaboration. The space is alive with light and vigor. “Your energy level is much different because you work in an environment that is conducive to being relaxed and feeling good,” Bellerjeau says.
If drama is what you want, MulvannyG2 delivers. “They’ve certainly created a statement of themselves and a statement within the building,” says Picard. The generous curves of a floating staircase are set against a 36-foot wall of wood, perforated metal, unistrut, and dimmable lighting. The staircase and its illuminated scrim backdrop connect all employees from the fourth to sixth floors and transform what could have been blasé into a bold design element. A walk down these steps leads you to the company’s living room, otherwise known as the Town Square.
To continue the tradition of Friday morning meetings over breakfast, the office required a unique gathering place – one that could accommodate the entire staff at once. A designated area on the lowest level (fourth floor) provides ample space and is an ideal venue for company announcements, impromptu meetings, and special events.
The Bellevue office of MulvannyG2 took to heart the suggestions of end-users and combined timeless style with practical design – a formula sure to result in years filled with impressed clients, productive employees, and comfortable working conditions.
Jana J. Madsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.