Inspiration Interiors

May 1, 2004
Workspaces That Nurture Creativity
We expect facilities to do many things: to promote sales, welcome guests, appeal to clients, and increase productivity. Yet, how can interior design inspire the building's occupants to create and collaborate? By investigating examples of creativity at work, facilities managers can learn ways to stir the imagination within their own buildings. Indianapolis-based advertising agency Young & Laramore is a philosophically based firm that focuses on communication that respects its audience and promotes long-term brand recognition. While in the advertising industry most firms are categorized as either creative or strategic, Young & Laramore strives to do both while creating work that moves people. "In that direction, our whole business was formed, and accordingly, the design of our space followed the business' direction," says David Young, partner, Young & Laramore.The firm began 20 years ago with two friends in a great two-person space that encouraged visual communication. "We really believed that space was a huge part of our collaboration and efficiency, as well as enhancing the work," says Young. As the business grew, the partners looked for a space where their firm could create without asking permission.On the Drawing BoardYoung & Laramore purchased a circa-1903, three-story grocery store/apartment building in downtown Indianapolis. Walls were removed to create openness and maximize daylighting and the views of the city. The firm added an atrium to allow additional sunlight into the building's center so that every staff member has access to natural light.Around this atrium, Young & Laramore installed railings with comfy tops to encourage small, informal meetings. "It is a natural meeting space - a cozy side place - where people stand and talk. It was meant to create friendliness and allow people to get to know each other's work," says Young. The atrium unites the art directors with the account management department to nurture a cross pollination of ideas. "The water cooler is not an obvious place for people to stand and talk, but they do; or they will stand in a kitchen," says Young. In addition to an abundance of meeting areas, the firm's 16,000-square-foot space has an open floorplan. Because Young believes people are energized by other people, he promotes a sound-filled, lively environment. Adds Young, "I love it when I am having a meeting with clients and hear someone laugh real loud. Sound is energetic!"

I study human perception and cognitive science on how the brain receives information and gets programmed and the way people can connect in non-traditional ways," says Young. The building's atrium is also for the sharing of sound and visual communication. To further shatter barriers between different departments, the second floor opens into the third floor and windows have been cut into the walls. The building's design encourages the sense that the entire agency's 60-person staff is collaborating. Supported by its vision and its facility, the firm has seen tremendous success and staff needs have expanded to an additional building.Artists' ColonyThe firm's creativity has bubbled over into its neighborhood. Once a desolate urban landscape, its neighborhood is now a bustling arts district filled with theatres, restaurants, independently owned shops, jazz clubs, and coffeehouses. A vital part of this inner city rejuvenation, the firm is integral to this growing, vibrant community. Adds Young, "We had plans at one point to move and the staff did not want to move. We love the space and the neighborhood."A sense of community is also important to renowned integrated communications firm Shepardson, Stern, and Kaminsky (SS+K), New York City. A big part of the company's identity was strongly linked to its original eclectic Soho neighborhood. After outgrowing its former headquarters, SS+K moved into a beautiful I.M. Pei-designed building in Lower Manhattan. "We were changing neighborhoods from a funky, artsy place to downtown, which is filled with bankers and lawyers. We did not want to get too corporate," explains Marty Cooke, partner, SS+K."With a company like this, your people are your assets and you need them happy and motivated. We were nervous," says Cooke. However, the move has thrilled the agency's employees and boosted the agency's status in the marketplace. "We look like a much more substantial firm. People are knocked out by the space," says Cooke."I loved that there were giant windows and spectacular views that [came] as a natural resource to the space," says Mark Kaminsky, partner, SS+K, New York City. Located on the 30th floor, the bright, cheery headquarters has spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge.With dark ceilings and streamlined, edgy finishes, the space had once been the heralded headquarters of dotcom communications firm Global Crossing, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design, New York City. SS+K tailored these dramatic interiors for its own needs and philosophy under the direction of Principal Michel-Claude Fiechter of the architectural firm The Philips Group (TGP), headquartered in New York City. "We brought in natural wood as homage to the space we had before with its woody, lofty look," says Kaminsky. Adds Cooke, "We wanted a suit of clothes custom-made for us. The worry we had coming into any existing space was, 'Would it really fit us?' It has been a complete success and I could not imagine going back."The space features two generous conference rooms and smaller meeting areas as well. A popular cafe area offers the office's best views. In the past, the firm was overcrowded and it was difficult to schedule meetings in the overused conference rooms. Now, these numerous meeting areas have increased the agency's frequency of informal gatherings and supported the staff's ability to work. Fanciful names such as "Kyoto" or "Woodstock" for the boardrooms adds to the playful attitude in the workplace.Cooke believes that access to natural light is crucial for a happy work environment and also promotes productivity. The firm inherited high-end furnishings from the previous tenant for its open floorplan. Adds Kaminsky, "I am much more economically focused, but I love that we got a higher grade of furniture."The majority of these partitions are low-level to enhance interaction. "A lot of people say that is distracting, but it creates a certain level of collaboration that won't exist in a high-partition-type system," says Anthony Saby, architect and former senior designer at TPG, West New York, NJ. The low-partition workstations also allow the free flow of sunlight instead of a dark labyrinth of tall cubicles.Works of Art
Being in the design field myself, I cannot be around everybody all the time. I need some areas by myself to sketch, read, do whatever I need to do," says Saby. Saby urges facilities managers in creative fields to pair open office space with private areas to allow staff members time to concentrate on specific tasks. "Whether it is done through furnishings or partitions or [an] office environment, you have to have that balance between the open studio atmosphere and privacy," says Saby.
"There was a concern from my side on how I [could] maintain the integrity of the space but also give it SS+K's stamp," says Saby. SS+K and TPG made a clear effort to maintain core elements of the original design while incorporating the agency's culture. Because the staff had been happy at the previous address, there were concerns of employee atrophy after the move last May. By paying careful attention to design, the project team created a cohesive work environment that supports SS+K's work habits and helps with em-ployee retention.Saby encourages commercial building owners to understand the history and architectural significance of their buildings and to take a restorative approach to design when needed to attract tenants in the creative fields. "It is good to be knowledgeable about what is in your inventory that might have been done in a sensitive architectural manner and could be a positive," says Saby.Happy in its new home, SS+K has become integrated into its neighborhood and has gotten involved with community groups. The firm's entire style is reflected in the design of its headquarters and is proudly featured on the company's video and website."In the modern age in communities, people are so divorced from each other. People are just recognizing the importance of community," says Young. As a creative anchor in its now thriving community, the Young & Laramore firm has learned the immense value of designing to support innovation. Young urges facilities managers and building owners to move away from low-energy, muffled environments and embrace the quintessence of creativity and spontaneity. "Our design encourages that kind of life."Regina Raiford Babcock (mailto:[email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.

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