Great office environment
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 6/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Right across highway 21 from Herman Miller's longtime headquarters in Zeeland, Michigan—the place where Isamu Noguchi, Alvar Aalto, and Charles and Ray Eames made modern design history—stands a warehouse-type building that's already making a history of its own. In the nine months since the 100,000-square-foot steel-and-concrete Herman Miller MarketPlace opened for business, accolades have been stacking up. The U.S. Green Building Council's seal of approval took the form of a Gold LEED rating (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design); the national AIA conferred a Top 10 Green Projects of 2003 citation.
Much of the credit goes to the Chicago office of IA Interior Architects, a firm that designed the Sacramento headquarters for the California Environmental Protection Agency. Herman Miller asked IA for a facility where employees from four separate Michigan offices could be consolidated. The new work environment needed to be progressive, of course, as well as environmentally sensitive.
"Sustainability was the driving force," says IA principal Tom Powers. Herman Miller's 400-person staff—and anyone who visits—might not even notice, though, that green design surrounds them. That's because IA disguised sustainable elements as industrial chic.
Immediately beyond the reception area, a double-height atrium cuts into the center of the two-story building. The atrium's most dramatic statement, a canted wall of glass framed in painted steel, fills the space with natural light, reducing energy bills accordingly. Panels of maple from re-harvested forests clad a curved wall beside a pantry. Carpet contains 10 percent postindustrial recycled fiber. Wall paint is low-VOC.
A lot of eating and lounging goes on in the atrium, hence the Alpha chair, Denis Santachiara and Enrico Baleri's polyurethane Tato stools surrounding an Eames plywood coffee table, and swoopy beech-veneered Surf bar stools by Peter Christian. IA took work into account as well. Because the atrium is set up for both wired and wireless connectivity, staff can plug in laptops at custom booths upholstered in Verner Panton circle fabric.
A pool of water and river rocks curves into one side of the atrium, separating it from the building core. But the pool's not there just for looks. "It naturally humidifies the space," Powers says. Anyone who needs to cross the water can use the poured-in-place concrete-slab bridge.
A concrete staircase provides access to the more traditional office zones, on the second level. Here, IA organized workstation clusters using Herman Miller's Resolve systems. To distinguish workstations for permanent staff from those reserved for visitors, the architects chose two colors of Herman Miller fabric. (Staff gets blue, visitors green.) Nevertheless, Powers says, "We knew it would be difficult to navigate the 50,000-square-foot floor plates." His solution was to define areas with instantly recognizable images: At the ends of work- station rows, he placed custom silk-screened photographic panels depicting New York's Wall Street, London's Covent Garden, and other global landmarks.
Eight "collaboration rooms" range from 225 to 350 square feet. Each habitually stands open. (For privacy, IA supplied polyester curtains or sliding doors of brushed-aluminum laminate and acrylic.) And each features the same low-VOC paint and eco-friendly carpet as the rest of the office, plus Eames and Noguchi pieces. History repeats itself.