A Perfect Union
Katherine S. Ankerson and Mark Hinchman -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Harnessing the raw power of the diesel locomotive and translating it into a design concept, the Union Pacific Railroad's new headquarters in downtown Omaha alludes to the history and present of this freight giant in ways both large and small. Principal Bill Hartman designed the 1.3 million-square-foot building to make architectural reference to rail travel. Note, for in- stance, how the rows of interior office windows offer glimpses into private worlds, reminiscent of passing train cars. And the extensive use of variegated metallic tones, as on a 160-foot-high copper panel in the 19-story atrium, appears simultaneously contemporary and industrial.
That initial spatial expression is supported in public areas by a high level of more literal detail developed with John Bricker, a principal in the firm's graphics-and-branding arm, Studio 585. The design emerged "from the inside out," says Hartman. In the 500-seat staff dining area, full-scale painted-aluminum "boxcar" sides pivot on wheels to reconfigure the space for different events—and evoke a sense of motion. (A similar boxcar side is installed near the food station in the dining area.) As part of a deep program of integrated graphics and art, corporate jargon appears in vinyl film on walls and on the glass front of the broadcast studio. ("UPLINC" stands for Union Pacific Learning Information and Communication.) Activating the atrium, a 40-foot-long, 21-foot-high video wall is composed of 28 rear-projection screens playing constantly changing programs, from customer presentations to real-time footage of moving trains. "The media experience is a powerful tool," Bricker says, "demonstrating the spirit that built America."