Design's best friend
Cindy Coleman -- Interior Design, 5/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Sit. Stay. Good boy! Pet owners doling out commands and praise—plus the accompanying treat—may never have heard of the Doane Pet Care Company, the largest U.S. maker of private-label dog and cat food. The company's size is due in part to a 1998 merger. Once that transaction was complete, executives turned to VOA Associates, known for a humanistic approach to office design, to create Doane's new 61,000-square-foot two-level headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee.
"We began by looking at designs that reflect park settings," says VOA principal and design director Nick Luzietti, who constructed his vocabulary from there. Behind the reception desk, Luzietti positioned a fencelike wall of red woven plywood and steel poles—a concept that reappears as the balustrade of the staircase connecting the office's two floors. Wandering paths replace standard corridors, with informal meeting spaces set up like picnic areas as well as tree trunks, gravel, and even a fire hydrant along the way. To represent water, Luzietti built faceted Lumasite walls to surround the office's core.
The workstations, placed along the window wall to benefit from natural light, were built of simple drywall, plastic laminate, and stained particleboard, helping to keep the budget to a modest $35 per square foot. The four executive offices are open; privacy comes via pear-wood pocket doors.
Utilizing building standard offerings also contributed to lower construction costs. A drywall ceiling curves to follow the path of the core walls, while acoustical tiles make up the remainder of the ceiling.
Most noticeable in the cheap-and-cheerful category are the message signage and animal images. In reception, a 9-foot-high, 15-foot-wide wall is printed with an oversize graphic from Doane's advertising campaign: a boxer's humorously soulful mug. "He's got such a friendly face, why not enlarge it?" asks Luzietti.
Indeed, friendliness permeates the new office. Shortly after move-in, Doane executives sent out a questionnaire polling staff members on the main reason they choose to work at the company. The top factor cited? Hands-down, it was the wonderful work environment. That's tail-wagging news.