Old Building, New Aspects

Oct. 1, 2007
Modernization Citation of Excellence: Aspect Medical Systems, Norwood, MA

When Braintree, MA-based Campanelli Cos. decided to overhaul an existing, aged Polaroid campus of 132 acres, two manufacturing facilities, and a power plant, the apparent problems seemed endless. With the help of RKB Architects (also from Braintree, MA) and teams of engineers, however, the outdated buildings were given new life and new purpose, and modern solutions overcame old problems.

The renovation of one of the two existing Polaroid manufacturing facilities into a multi-tenant-use building is of particular note. At a total project cost of $12 million, the 136,503-square-foot facility became the corporate headquarters of Aspect Medical Systems in December 2006. Along with corporate functions, the new Aspect Medical space is used for lab testing, manufacturing, and shipping and receiving.

After demolition and reconstruction of much of the space, the first apparent problems had to do with design. The project team's design concept was to provide a space that was representative of Aspect Medical's professionalism and leadership in Bispectral Index Technologies (technology used to detect the effects of certain medications on the brain). The design, then, had to embody the professional and technical sophistication of the tenant.

The design solution used color, form, and material to create a comfortable and enjoyable work environment that underscored Aspect Medical's professional attributes. The main entrance is an architectural statement in glass, aluminum framing, and composite panels, giving the existing structure a modern facelift. The wooded, landscaped space outside the facility was carried inside though an earthy color palette for the walls, floors, and even Aspect Medical's logo.

To make the cafeteria more inviting and less institutional for employees and visitors, designers chose a radial architectural element for visual interest. Polycarbonate and aluminum canopies were also used to define break spaces and seating areas. Because manufacturing and research and development areas needed to be highly visible for client and visitor tours, glass was used to open spaces to viewing. The monumental staircases, built as thin as possible and supported by existing and new steel beams in lieu of steel support columns, were used not only to connect the first and second floors, but also to open up the space and allow the outside to shine in through glazing systems.

The project team achieved the lofty design goals in an aged, problematic space. Renovating the existing buildings into a multi-tenant business campus, RKB Architects, Campanelli Cos., and their engineers managed to revitalize and repurpose a worn space into a modern, attractive facility.

Judges' Comments

"The use of current space was very well utilized to its function and intent. Space was created where there was none, interjecting the feel of a modern facility in an outdated factory."

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