Lee Stout and Gensler's Chris Banks create a showroom for Workstage, the builder of made-to-order office spaces.
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 5/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
It looks like a handsome installation, which indeed it is; but it reveals nothing about the anomalous nature of its genesis. There's no clue in the seemingly conventional construction style; and the cast of characters, though more diversified than most, is fairly formulaic. Yet it's definitely not a run-of-the-mill project.
This is regarding the Gaines Building, an office low-rise near Grand Rapids, Michigan. The client is Workstage, a nom de plume for the partnership formed by contract-furniture giant Steelcase and private real estate developer Gale & Wentworth of New Jersey. The architect is Thomas Phifer & Partners of New York. And the interior designers, tapped by president/CEO Jack Cottrell and v.p. Kent Riddle of Workstage, are Manhattan-based design expert Lee Stout and vice-president Chris Banks of the Gensler Washington, D.C., office. Her colleagues on the job were Ehren Gaag and David Askins from the capital city and v.p. James Follett with Tev Shinkle from Chicago. Both Stout and Banks are veterans of collaborative work with Steelcase.
From the key people in this assembly came the paradigmatic Workstage master plan for fast-track construction of commercial buildings; Stout and Banks, as noted, developed the interiors strategy. Thus the program provides for its clients custom-styled and selectively furnished workplaces, not only built twice as fast as comparable yet empty counterparts, but also delivered at 10 percent cost savings. The recipe applies to buildings large and small, at the Gaines calling for six 40-ft.-by-160-ft. modules amounting to 80,000 sq. ft. on two floors, inclusive of a double-height wood porch that's part of the deal. The exposed steel structure is topped with a vaulted roof studded with skylights; the skin is of glass with aluminum curtain wall. Floors are surfaced with an easily cleaned non-slip material made of recycled milk containers. To inject a sense of order, angled space frames subliminally delineate areas along the perimeter and act as carriers for pin-up boards and translucent fabric screens. Rather than being allotted hierarchically, spaces enjoying the benefits of daylight infusion are provided for all. As Stout puts it, "Everyone has light but no one has windows."
For interior variances, pertinent tools, so to speak, also come from the program's grab bag of options. Menu entrées include seven work-station types, each designed to be adaptable to the user's needs or whims (like whom or what to face); different desk top shapes and sizes; single or shareable units; and storage. Most tables and chairs can be wheeled or carried. Air pressure and light controls are under the individual's management, being located between slab and floor in a plenum accessible via lifting of a carpet tile. Furniture by Steelcase, extending to Vecta and Metro, includes modified pieces developed for the prototype plan. Choices in architectural plans also may be added.
From ground breaking to completion of furnishings, work time for the Gaines Building took six months.