Project Files: Compete and Retreat

Focused on work and decompression, IA designs new offices for a multinational high-tech conglomerate.

For over 10 years, IA has partnered with the local teams of this confidential client, a global leader in networking and high-tech services, to create high-performance work environments. The redesign of its 51,000-square-foot sales office, spanning over two floors at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, was no exception. The local team engaged IA’s Raleigh office, and the redesign was approached as three separate but related projects that would house and transition the company’s hard working and energetic sales teams from semi-private offices to collaborative, open-office environments. To ease the transition and attract staff to the new workplaces, an iconic design feature was planned for each project, and the sales teams themselves requested an ambiance that would be playful but grownup.

Community Gathering Spaces: Options for Decompression

Following focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders, the overriding notion of community gathering spaces emerged as an engaging concept to support and inspire the sales-team culture of collaboration and spirited competition, as well as provide options for relaxation and decompression. With the idea of designing spaces that both enable competition and offer venues for retreat adopted, the exploration of possible iconic elements finalized and focused on a treehouse, a park, and a city center, with an emphasis on the appeal and health-engendering aspects of nature.  

Interior Wall-size graphics in the workplace

Wall-size graphics, this one emphasizing powerful energy on the move, are used throughout the three projects. Confidential Client, Raleigh, NC. Photography © Monica Slaney.

Balance: Dynamic Energy vs. Treehouse Retreat

For all three projects the interior core was the focal point of the design. For the fourth-floor project, bright colors and wall-size graphics at the core emphasize the dynamics of powerful energy on the move in contrast to an iconic treehouse, a retreat and popular gathering spot, the communal heart of the space. Here, a subtle, neutral palette calms and rejuvenates. Light-colored wood panels, punctuated by pockets of moss, cover the angular walls; delicate white and transparent pendant lights hang from the ceiling. All contrive to set a scene of relaxed leisure in a treehouse on a starry night.

Workplace retreat in Raleigh

For decompression, the treehouse is a favorite retreat. Confidential Client, Raleigh, NC. Photography © Monica Slaney.

Walk away from the treehouse towards the exterior and a variety of collaboration areas are available from glass-fronted huddle rooms to audio privacy rooms, with some spaces separated by partitions of natural linen. The most private spaces are conference rooms, each named for an outdoor activity called out by an engaging full-wall graphic.

Relaxing cafe in high tech office, Raleigh

The park pavilion is a central communal café. Confidential Client, Raleigh, NC. Photography © Monica Slaney.

The Park Pavilion

For the third-floor project, a park is represented as a venue that nurtures, energizes, and rewards, concepts that apply to all three projects. Floor-to-ceiling black and white photos capture the essence of a variety of park features, and the central communal café area is designed as an iconic pavilion. A moss-covered wall runs the full length of the structure, and trees, custom-cut from flat panels of honey-colored wood, stand floor to ceiling at both entrances.

Shades of green and blue (a reference to client brand colors) at the core dissipate as you move towards the building exterior. Conference and meeting rooms are named after parks in areas where the sales teams are represented worldwide.

Trellises in the workplace, Raleigh

Adjacent to the trellis, swings for seats hang from the ceiling but are anchored at the floor. Confidential Client, Raleigh, NC. Photography © Monica Slaney.

An overarching architectural feature—a series of trellises rising from the floor and continuing along the ceiling above groups of tables and chairs—extends the architectural details of the pavilion and offers more space types for collaboration and work. On the other side of the trellises, tables with swings for seats, hanging from the ceiling but anchored at the floor, are a playful and clever alternative to chairs or benches. A version of this same structure, similar but different, is seen in the fourth-floor project, where a series of wood panels creates an angled canopy over open furniture groupings in the collaborative area adjacent to the treehouse.

Workplace furniture grouped under collaborative work area

Angled canopies over furniture groupings in the collaborative area are adjacent to the treehouse. Confidential Client, Raleigh, NC. Photography © Monica Slaney.

The Immersive City Center

The approach to the second-floor project, although smaller in size, is consistent with the other two and creates a visually energetic zone along the internal core. An immersive city center environment generates an up-beat, fun ambiance that references the company’s wide range of clients and connection to the communities it supports. Walls are designed to replicate a city streetscape, with faux storefronts directly outside of meeting rooms and graphics depicting city-scape skylines. The interior of each enclosed room, from meeting and conference rooms to training rooms, features a typical city environment, (i.e., a library, cinema, brewery, stadium, deli, etc.); some displaying related 3D art, carpet, lighting, or furniture, others a full-wall graphic or framed artwork. Continuing the theme, the carpet design in open areas reveals visual patterns that mimic sidewalks and busy streets.

Elevator lobby experiential graphic design in Raleigh

Marcom’s General Store surely carried hardware. Confidential Client, Raleigh, NC. Photography © Monica Slaney.

Approaching the elevator lobby in the core area, black-painted brick at the ceiling and faux arches add more texture to the façade. The effect suggests a dimly lit alley between buildings that gives way to a wall of painted wood paneling where vintage-inspired gooseneck lighting calls out a sign that reads Marcom’s General Store (which surely carried hardware)—a bit of tongue-in- cheek humor. The Marcom family originally owned the project-site property that is now occupied by a global leader in computer hardware.

Workplace lighting design in Raleigh office

Clever tree-like lighting in the city plaza contributes to ambiance. Confidential Client, Raleigh, NC. Photography © Monica Slaney.

Close to the Bistro/E-Café in the open office area, a small city plaza offers outdoor tables, chairs, and tree-like lighting elements. The nearby amphitheater, includes moveable ottomans on a cobblestone and moss- patterned carpet with walls of green acoustical materials for a biophilic touch.

A variety of venues and creative iconic features successfully ensure a range of options for relaxation and decompression as well as work, vivifying the overall theme of a balanced compete and retreat for this technology leader’s high-energy, highly-competitive sales teams.


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